#109: Circuit certainty

From 1 January 2005, all electrical work in UK dwellings will need to comply with the new ‘Part P’ requirements and be carried out by persons who are ‘competent to do the work’. Anyone thinking of, for example, adding new circuits to their house will have to get ‘building control’ involved : (

Of course, it’s a well-intentioned scheme -amateurs do kill people unintentionally by crazy high-hubris tinkering. The sad reality is though that the UK is a place where engineering is not recognised as a profession and where tradespeople are free to set up shop without any serious scrutiny.

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Sending around some duffer from planning control (who has never changed a plug in his life) and who may be able to devalue your home, by denying you a certificate when you want to sell up, seems a waste of everyone’s time. Actually it seems more like 1984.

Today’s invention is a way for genuinely competent electricians to ‘fingerprint’ their work. This will not only allow house sales to proceed without further external interference, but may also give cowboy tradesmen some serious pause for thought.

Each time an electrician performs a task, he would attach a tag to the work. This would probably best be a laser printed metal one, capable of withstanding a serious domestic fire for many hours. These tags would be printed with a digital signature incorporating the tradesman’s identifier, the date and the postcode of the property (and which would therefore be impossible for a bogus worker to fake or spoof).

Anyone wanting to verify that the work is that of a professional could photograph the tag and send it (by email or MMS) to a government server on which the installation would have been registered. This would enable householders to withold payment, make insurance claims and smooth conveyancing of their property.

Obviously all this would result in increased costs for the homeowner but at least planning people wouldn’t need to get a cut. A small price hike would probably be acceptable, given the real costs of dangerous wiring.

Personally, I’d prefer proper training and professional recognition for everyone who works in an engineering context.

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