Digital Drop-In FAQs

SELECT is hosting weekly Digital Drop-In webinars for Members to answer questions throughout the pandemic. The live sessions include SELECT staff and guest speakers offering advice on technical, employment, training and membership issues. Taking part is easy - simply email [email protected] to book your place.

Here is a collection of some of the most common topics and questions asked about so far in our digital webinars. We will be updating this page as the digital drop in sessions continue throughout lockdown.

Or you can watch snippets of the weekly recordings on our YouTube channel’s playlists:

Digital Drop-In [February 12 2021]
Digital Drop-In [July 2 2020]
Digital Drop-In [June 18 2020]
Digital Drop-In [June 12 2020]
Digital Drop-In [June 5 2020]
Digital Drop-In [May 29 2020]
Digital Drop-In [May 22 2020]
Digital Drop-In [May 15 2020]

How to get more funding for existing apprentices, as I see they are now throwing money at new starts? 

Colin is right there are pots of money, however they are generally not suited to electrical employers. I am meeting with Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Skills and Fair Work, next week to discuss employer support for this coming intake. As noted in the question above I would suggest that Colin contacts the local authority. Response from Anne Galbraith

EICR Coding  – When carrying out some tests during periodic inspection and testing of an office I discovered that several socket outlets had no effective connection to earth.  Can you tell me what would be the most appropriate code to allocate on the EICR? 

The industry opinion via the Electrical safety First GuideNo4 would be to allocate a Code 2 (potentially dangerous condition).

In light of what’s happened over the last year I’ve seen some courses available online, is it possible that almost all our courses could be done online, preferably downloadable so we can refer to it at any time that suits us? I understand that maybe testing for example would have a part that would be better hands on, maybe if the theory part was online even a half day hands on course would work. But being able to download them would be far better than trying to remember what was said or done, and any assessment can be done online? Just a thought, would save having to travel for a course, hotel fees for us and select staff.    

The simple answer is yes, it’s possible and indeed highly probably that at some point in the future the majority of our courses will be delivered partially or wholly in a virtual classroom environment or available to do through some sort of interactive online delivery method. It’s one of our long term plans to explore and develop as many methods of delivery as possible to ensure members have every opportunity to undertake training. The issue is one of cost.  It’s a minimum of £15K for a basic online course. Adding interactive whistles and bells very quickly increases that cost by thousands of pounds at a time. Training delivery over the past year has evolved in response to a very specific set of circumstances i.e. the pandemic. Once society becomes more open and the level of contact increases we’ll get back to face-to-face training, which is still our preferred method of choice. Response from Dave Forrester

Will their pay go up in September. If so by how much and who governs this. Are employers expected to pay hirer rates for long periods at college?

Response from Fiona Harper – SELECT Director of Employment & Skills and The Secretary of the SJIB

The SJIB writes to employers advising that an Apprentice or Adult Trainee has been upgraded when it has been advised by SECTT that the Apprentice/Adult Trainee has completed the appropriate competencies and the Site Activity Portfolio for the relevant stage. I would expect that SECTT would keep employers informed and up to date on their employee’s progression through the Training Programme.

The rates for 2021 are listed on the SJIB website.  They are the same rates as 2020, effective from 6 January 2020.

The SJIB determines the rates for all Grades of SJIB operatives including Apprentices and Adult Trainees and has done so since 1969.

The SJIB has delegated training delivery to SECTT.  SECTT organise Apprentice college attendance and activity by means of block release within each training stage.  As far as I am aware that policy has not changed.  As the majority of colleges are currently closed – Apprentices are not expected to attend college. There may be some catch-up required later in the year – but, that will be communicated by SECTT to the employers in good time.

I would recommend that the questioner (Greg) should discuss these matters with the SECTT Training Officer. He is also more than welcome to contact me and/or my team if he wishes to discuss anything further.

Thermal Insulation – The clerk of works on the site I am working on has indicated that the ring circuit cables installed under the thermal insulation in the attic space do not comply with IET wiring Regulations 18th Edition due to the amount of thermal insulation on top of the cables.

   •  A ring final circuit protected by a 32A protective device should have as a minimum a cable of CSA of 2.5mm2 , and when installed have the current carrying capacity of 20A
   •  Reference to Table 4D5 is necessary to determine the installation method used
   •  A 2.5mm 2 cable covered in thermal insulation exceeding 100mm is only capable of carrying 17A under these conditions.

The cables will therefore require to be located near to the top of the joists or above the thermal insulation where the effect would be reduced.

Can we recruit this spring and ask apprentices to work over until September 2022 to start?

You can of course recruit at anytime, however, they do not officially become apprentices until they start college and all paperwork has been completed. I would further suggest that Greg contact his local authority as they all have a pot of money to support apprentice recruitment. All 32 local authorities apply different criteria and will only deal with employers directly. Response from Anne Galbraith

Main Protective Bonding – I am in the process of rewiring a first floor flat, the gas meter is external to the building  and I need to carry out the main bonding. All the neighbouring flats have the bonding completed within the external gas meter cabinet is this really necessary?

Main protective bonding to the gas service pipe can be made where practicable within 600mm of the meter or at point of entry to the building if the meter is external.  NOTE This connection would need to be accessible.

Smoke Alarms – Can I use the new tamper proof long-life lithium battery powered smoke and heat alarms in “new build” properties where a building warrant has been issued?

   •  Scottish Building Regulations recommend mains powered operated devices with battery back up and this is at present the preferred option.
   •  The building standards system in Scotland however gives the Local Authority Verifier some flexibility when applying the Building Regulations to alterations, extensions and conversions
   •  Mains powered units are necessary to meet the Building Standards. Only in exceptional circumstances will battery only units be acceptable.

Vaccinations Guidance

On the Latest COVID-19 News and Updates from SELECT section of the website Members can access new advice on vaccinations written by the Director of Employment and Skills, Fiona Harper.

The guidance covers:

   •  Can an employer make an employee get the vaccine?
   •  What if employees have religious or other objection?
   •  What if an employee has medical reasons not to be vaccinated?
   •  Can an employer dismiss an employee for refusing the vaccine?
   •  Can employers provide the vaccination to their employees?
   •  Should employers pay for the vaccination?
   •  How will a vaccine impact an employer’s Risk Assessment?
   •  Can employers make it a mandatory health and safety requirement for employees to be vaccinated?
   •  What about data protection?
   •  Should employers be encouraging he vaccine?
   •  What does this mean for employers?
   •  What can employers do now?

SELECT have also produced a Coronavirus Vaccine Policy and a COVID-19 Vaccinations letter Members can introduce and utilise. These will be available from the COVID-19 section

Can we have an update on the SJIB on-line application process?

The SJIB has been developing a new online portal for applying for ECS Cards.

The new ECS Cards section will be broken down into the following key specialist areas:

    •  Electrotechnical
    •  Management
    •  ECS Related Discipline
    •  Network Infrastructure (originally Datacomms)
    •  Fire, Emergency & Security Systems (FESS)
    •  Cabling and Jointing
    •  Building Controls

Applicants will be able to select their specialism and a list of different cards will appear. They select a card, and a summary of the criteria will appear detailing the requirements that must be met to either obtain the card for the first time, renew the card or, where applicable, upgrade. The summary is unique to each card and if they believe they meet the criteria they will click on the appropriate application:

    •  Initial Application – First time they have requested this card
    •  Renewal Application – Renew their existing card
    •  Upgrade – Upgrade

When an Applicant clicks on the appropriate on-line application, they will be asked to complete various sections, some mandatory, others optional. In addition, they will be asked to enter the dates on which they completed specific training and upload copies of relevant certificates.

The Applicant will be advised if they fail to provide the correct information or upload certificates, they will be unable to proceed to the next section. This means that the Applicant may have to organise specific training before they can continue and complete the on-line application.

The final stage of the process requires the Applicant to pay the relevant fee and once the Applicant hits ‘Finish’ the application will appear in the SJIB Administrators’ To Do Lists for processing.

At this stage, the Applicant will be advised that the SJIB will review their application and they will be advised if there are any issues that may prevent the SJIB issuing their card.

Although we have strived to make the on-line application progress as a straightforward as possible, we understand that completing an on-line application for the first time can be daunting. Some Applicants may not have access to a mobile or computer and would prefer to complete a paper-based application. They can still do this, once an Applicant has selected the right card, they can click either the on-line application or on the paper version and enter their details either by hand or using their keyboard.  All paper-based applications must be posted to the Walled Garden.

We are launching the cards in stages. Our initial focus will be on the cards that fall under the Electrotechnical and Management specialisms. The others will follow in due course.

Is there a particular notice period that I must give workers when bringing them back from furlough?

There is no official minimum notice period for this, but best practice would be to give at least 48 hours’ notice of a return to work.  This would allow a worker to make arrangements regarding care or childcare if necessary.

You may want to use the materials available on the SELECT website in the ‘Returning to Work’ section of our employment guidance in order to gather information which will help you to make a decision about how and when to unfurlough staff.

How deep should buried cables be to avoid being damaged? 

BS 7671:2018 Regulation 132.7 requires as a fundamental principle that when designing an electrical installation and deciding upon an appropriate wiring system and the method of its installation that consideration is given to the relevant external influences – this includes impact. Requirements for this are given in Chapter 52 ‘Selection and Erection of Wiring Systems’ specifically Regulation 522.8.10. Regulation 522.8.10 does not however provide a depth that satisfies the requirement and simply requires that buried cables, conduits, and ducts be located at a sufficient depth to avoid being damaged by any reasonably foreseeable disturbance of the ground. Note : Except where installed in a conduit or duct which provides equivalent protection against mechanical damage, a cable buried in the ground must also incorporate an earthed armour or metal sheath or both. This should be suitable for use as a protective conductor and be marked by cable covers or a suitable marker tape. IET Guidance Note 1 ‘Selection & Erection’ however does provide a depth and advises that burial of less than 0.5 metre is usually inadvisable as shallow laid cables may be inadvertently damaged by general gardening, etc.Cables that cannot be buried at a reasonable depth should be specifically protected, e.g. by ducts encased in concrete, or installed along an alternative route. Before any excavation is undertaken for cable or other works HSE guidance booklet HSG47 Avoiding danger from underground services should be studied, as it provides valuable advice on safety aspects. 

How do I determine the maximum permitted earth fault loop impedance values for 110 Volt circuits installed to supply 110 V socket-outlets in a workshop?

This voltage is typical of the protective measure reduced low voltage (RLV) systems given in Regulation Group 411.8 which is in Chapter 41 of BS 7671:2018.  It is commonly used as an alternative to the SELV or PELV protective measure and is defined as a system in which the nominal line-to-line voltage does not exceed 110 volts and the nominal line to Earth voltage does not exceed 63.5 volts.

The RLV system described in BS 7671 is the familiar 110 V centre-tap earthed system with the source of supply to the circuit usually provided by a double-wound isolating transformer complying with either BS EN 61558-1 or BS EN 61558-2-23. This has the neutral (star) point of the secondary winding’s of the three-phase transformer or the midpoint of the secondary winding’s of single-phase transformers connected to Earth.

Every plug, socket-outlet and cable coupler must have a protective conductor contact and must not be dimensionally compatible with those used for any other system in use in the same premises.

Identification of plugs and socket- outlets is usually by colour coding and BS 7375 recommends that plugs, socket-outlets, and couplers for use between 110 and 130V to be coloured yellow.

This type of system while being a little above the nominal extra-low voltage range, has provided a high degree of safety for many years in construction site installations and in workshops for powering handheld equipment.

On RLV protection against electric shock is provided by basic protection and fault protection by automatic disconnection of supply (ADS) – this must however be provided by means of an over-current protective device in each line conductor or alternatively by an RCD.

All exposed- conductive-parts of the RLV system must be connected to Earth and the earth fault loop impedance at every point of use, including socket-outlets, must be such that disconnection is instantaneous for circuit-breakers and does not exceed 5 s for fuses.

Where a fuse or circuit-breaker is used, the maximum value of earth fault loop impedance (Zs) may be determined by the following formula: Zs× Ia ≤ U0 where

Zs is the earth fault loop impedance comprising:

– the source

– the line conductor up to the point of the fault, and

– the protective conductor between the point of the fault and the source

 Ia is the current in amps that will cause instantaneous operation of a circuit- breaker and disconnection within 5 seconds for a fuse.

Where an RCD is used this current is the rated residual operating current I∆n

U0 is the nominal AC or DC line voltage to Earth in volts (V), that is 55 V for single-phase systems and 63.5 V for three-phase systems.

Maximum earth fault loop impedance’s are given for BS EN 60898 circuit breakers and for fuses to BS 88 in a Table 41.6.

How does redundancy notice and pay work when someone is on furlough?

Redundancy notice and pay work more or less in the same way when the employee being made redundant is on (or has been on) furlough.  Employees should get at least their statutory minimum redundancy notice period, but may be contractually entitled to more than this.  When calculating redundancy pay, the value of a week’s pay should be based on pre-furlough wages, and the notice period should be paid at 100%.

The employer can claim back 80% of this redundancy notice pay.  Some sources indicate that where there is additional contractual notice to be paid, then it may be possible to pay this at 80% but this does represent a risk, given the novel nature of ‘furlough’; there is no way to know how a tribunal would view this course of action because it has never happened before.

Employers cannot claim back PILON payments (where pay is given in lieu of the requirement to work during a notice period).

How is furlough changing as of next week (July 2020)?

The furlough scheme is set to become more flexible as of 1 July 2020.  As of that date, employers can bring a worker back part time while still having them furloughed for the remaining portion of their normal hours.  As of 1 August 2020 the minimum period of furlough will drop from 3 weeks to 1 week, and the financial support offered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will begin to decrease month by month.  There will also now be a maximum number of workers who can be included on a claim, which is equal to the largest number on any previous single claim.  If any worker has been on family leave during this time, and returns to work at this stage then unlike other workers, they can be furloughed for the first time.

Please see our table, Furlough Payments Breakdown Table, detailing the changes in financial support which will happen gradually until the scheme’s conclusion in October 2020.

The 6 Amp BS EN 60898 Type B circuit breaker protection for a lighting circuit that I recently worked on keeps tripping off when the lighting is switched on. I have tested the insulation resistance of the circuit conductors L-N and L-E and N-E but the circuit and LED lights that I installed appear to be satisfactory – what could be causing the circuit breaker to trip?

This could be due to a high inrush current which is a well-known problem associated with LED lighting. LED lighting can provide many benefits including improved light output, increased life span and reduced maintenance costs for customers.

However, when installing or retrofitting such lighting the existing circuit arrangements may not always be suitable for the associated transient in-rush current which can be significant. This can be up to 253 times the normal rated current of the lamp (according to sources) and as an r example for a 10 W lamp with a normal current of 43mA this could be as much as 11A of inrush current.

Where a significant numbers of LED lamps are installed on a circuit this has also been known to cause damage to the associated switching devices such as switches, relays etc resulting in premature failure. LEDs are semi-conductor devices which operate using DC current which needs an electronic means of control called a driver to provide the correct output current and voltage. This has a capacitive effect on the input circuits which results in the high in-rush current. Circuit protection for new and existing circuits will normally be to the standard BS EN 60898 and circuit breakers manufactured to this standard will have certain tripping characteristics / ranges of sensitivity as set out in the standard i.e. they will either be Type B, Type C or Type D

Type B CB’s are recommended for general use and not suitable where high inrush currents may be present on circuits while Type C are recommended for motor circuits and other circuits where high in rush currents may be expected and Type D are recommended where very high inrush currents are expected such as for supplies to transformers.

Where a lighting circuit is protected by a 6 A Type B circuit breaker the tripping characteristics for it  (set in the product standard) mean that it may operate in a time greater than 0.1 second where there is a current flow at least three times greater than the its rated current carrying capacity (In). It will operate in a time less than 0.1 second where there is a current flow greater than five times In i.e. a current flow over 18 Amps even for a short time as happens with in-rush current will cause the circuit breaker to trip. Where several LED lamps are installed the inrush could be much greater than this value!

If the LED lamps have an inrush of up to 253 the normal current  of a 10W lamp it can be seen that installing two of these lamps would have an inrush current of 22 A resulting in an inrush current exceeding this value.

The solution to this problem is to ensure that the circuit protection for the lighting circuit is suitable for the likely level of in-rush current to be expected alternatively limit the number of LED lamps installed on the circuit. It should be noted that many lamp manufacturers now provide this type of information on request.

Note: In the Domestic Building Services Compliance Guide for Scotland for compliance with energy requirements in the building regs advise is that the number of lights per switch should be not number greater than 6 with a maximum of 100 circuit -watts

Useful sources of information on this include:

Can I control the socket-outlets for kitchen appliances supplied from a ring final circuit through a multi-gang grid arrangement?

This arrangement is common in new build homes, where a grid switch is installed in the kitchen area to control domestic appliances such as washing machines and fridges, with the ring final circuit broken through a number of 20 Amp grid switches controlling what are effectively unfused spurs from the it feeding socket-outlets located adjacent to the appliances.

The use of such switches is sometimes questioned as an issue because the circuit has the potential to be loaded up to 32A!

Firstly if the switch is wired as a part of a ring final circuit, BS 7671 requires that the ring, with spurs if any, can feed permanently connected equipment and an unlimited number of socket-outlets but must  comply with the requirements of Regulation 433.1.204.

The circuit conductors forming the ring (with spurs as necessary) must start and finish at the distribution board or consumer unit protective device, neutral bar and, where appropriate, earth bar and Reg 433.1.204 also requires overload protection requirements are achieved. This is achieved if the current carrying capacity (Iz) of the cable is not less than 20 A and if , under the intended conditions of use, the load current in any part of the circuit is unlikely to exceed for long periods the current carrying capacity of the cable. This would be the case if the ring final circuit has been designed and installed with a balanced load i.e. the load current flowing in each leg of the ring would not exceed 16A!

BEAMA (the equipment manufacturers trade association) have provided information that confirms there is no issue in relation to the current carrying capabilities of a 20 Amp switch installed in such a grid arrangement.  BS EN 60669-1 switches must pass product testing that includes a terminal test which requires the switch to satisfy the rise in temperature associated with carrying a current of at least 25 A.

It should however be noted that the product standard BS EN 60669-1 which the devices are manufactured to are not suitable as a means of isolation (reference Table 537.4 in BS 7671:2018). Therefore, where such grid switch are to be used as a means of isolation either a switch complying with an appropriate standard such as BS EN 60669-2-4 should be used or alternatively another suitable means of isolation provided e.g. a BS 1363-4 connection unit

Note: Socket-outlets for appliances are often located at the rear of the appliance and inaccessible especially where the appliance is built in. A suitable means of local isolation would therefore be recommended.

Myself and one my guys are wanting to do 208 course. Will this be available online? 

The 208 course has a practical side to it, so at the minute we are unable to deliver this virtually. We will however be reviewing this, to see if we can deliver the theory side virtually and arrange to meet up with the delegate to carry out the practical side at a later date.

As this course has SCQF Accreditation, we will also need SQA Approval, that the way we plan to deliver the course is acceptable with them.

As soon as we have further information, we will advertise this through the Training Section of the SELECT website and get information out to our Members via the usual social media platforms.

I may have to consider redundancies in the near future, but one of my staff is pregnant – does this affect the procedure I would have to follow? Would she be exempt from the process?

A pregnant person may be selected for redundancy as long as the reason for her selection is not related directly or indirectly to her pregnancy.  In all circumstances, a full and fair procedure must be followed, with non-discriminatory selection criteria which workers are scored against.  There are additional things to consider in this situation, as the timing of the redundancy in relation to the stage of the worker’s pregnancy can affect your responsibilities for statutory maternity pay, so please get in touch to discuss this further if the need arises.

One of my operatives wants to take a week of holiday while they are on furlough. How do I work out what they should be paid for that week?

In order to calculate the value of a week of holiday for your Operative, you should look back over the last 52 weeks of normal earnings for that person and use the average as your holiday week value.  In any week where a very reduced amount was earned, i.e. nothing was earned, or only SSP was received for example, you should disregard this week and look back further for another week of normal earnings.  You can look back up to 104 weeks in total.

Weeks spent on furlough should also be disregarded too; this is because those on variable pay would be progressively disadvantaged in terms of their week’s holiday value the longer that the spend on furlough, and this disadvantage would persist even when they return to work, for up to a year.

If we mandate holidays for furloughed employees, can we claim the 80% of the wage back under the scheme and make up the balance?

Yes, you should always pay holiday at 100% of normal earnings, and 80% of this can be claimed back under the CJRS scheme.  This means the employer would be liable for the additional 20%.

When carrying out a periodic inspection what classification code is recommended where switchgear components (RCD, RCBO, MCB switch disconnectors etc) made by one manufacturer are installed in another manufacturer’s distribution board or consumer unit?
Where mixed switchgear components within a consumer unit or distribution board are observed the industry approved guidance in the ESFs Best Practice Guide 4 is recommended here.

BPG 4 ‘Electrical installation condition reporting: Classification codes for domestic and similar electrical installations’ (Issue 5) was recently revised to take account of changes introduced in BS 7671:2018 and specifically, in this instance regulation 536.4.203 ‘Integration of devices and components’ although a new regulation and not retrospective to installations designed to previous versions of BS 7671 or the IEE Wiring Regulations should be considered.

BPG 4 advises that where:

  • there are no signs of thermal damage to component or associated connections
  • the enclosure or assembly has not been visibly modified
  • all components are securely fitted, and all connections are found to be adequate
  • there is correct manual operation of the component and the direction of use of toggles/switches is the same as existing devices
  • an observation classification code C3 (improvement recommended) should be made in Section K (the observations section) of the Electrical Installation Condition Report however if any of the items above are not satisfied the classification code should be C2 (potentially dangerous ‘urgent remedial action required). See Beama which provides further guidance on safe selection of devices for installation in assemblies.

What is the recommended sequence for testing a residual current device (RCD)?

Where the RCD is provided for fault protection purposes, as part of the protective measure automatic disconnection of supply, BS 7671:2018 (regulation group 643.7) requires that the disconnection time given in Chapter 41 is met. To verify this a test current of at least equal to the rated residual operating current (1 x I∆n) or greater should be selected on a suitable test instrument and the RCD should operate within 300mS.

Where the RCD is provided for additional protection BS 7671:2018 (regulation 643.8) requires that the effectiveness of the RCD should be verified, and that disconnection occurs in 40 mS when tested at 5 x I∆n or greater.

Note: BS EN 61008 is the product standard for RCDs while BS EN 61009 is the product standard for RCBO’s – product testing of RCDs and RCBOs is commonly carried out using a test current of 1 x I∆n.

There is no specific requirement in BS 7671:2018 for testing an RCD or RCBO at ½ x I∆n (This is however a useful test when fault finding and most test instruments used to test RCDs provide for this test).

What training will be available virtually and will this continue after lockdown?

We will shortly be reviewing all our training courses, to see what ones we can deliver as virtual classroom sessions.  This type of training has been very popular with some of our Members, saving them additional days away from work due to not having to travel, so yes we will certainly continue to offer this type of training in the future alongside our classroom based courses.

Further information on available training courses can be found by clicking here.

What pay are workers entitled to when they take holiday during a furlough period?

Holidays accrue at the same rate as usual throughout a worker’s period of furlough, and when holidays are taken during furlough, they are paid at 100% of wages.  There is no ‘double payment’ here of 80% furlough money plus 100% holiday money; the worker will simply receive 100% of their usual pay for the holiday period, and you would apply to recoup 80% of this value through the CJRS.

When can I initiate part time furlough?  Can I change the workers’ hours every week if I need to?

You can begin part time furlough on 1 July 2020, if you have agreement from your workers to do so.  In the month of July, the minimum period of furlough continues to be 3 weeks, and on 1 August 2020 this can reduce to 1 week.  Therefore from August it would be possible to alter the working hours of your workers week by week, though this may be administratively taxing, and may make claiming your CJRS grant more complex.