Regulations in the UK for Electrical Contractors

There are a number of different regulations which apply to Electricians and Electrical Contractors in the UK.  Each of these regulations affects a different part of the work which an electrical contractor would do.  We will look at each of these below and discuss which part of an electrical contractors work would be affected by each of these regulations.

BS7671 – Requirements for Electrical Installations (latest edition 2018)

The “Requirements For Electrical Installations” are otherwise called BS7671 or more colloquially as ‘the regs’.

This is a set of regulations which cover the selection, installation & inspection/testing of all electrical installations in the UK (with the exception of aircraft, boats, traffic lights & electricity supply networks).  Basically, all the wiring in your home or business is (at least should be) installed to this standard, whichever amendment was in force at the time of installation.

The regulations cover design and safety elements which must be adhered to as well as capacities of certain fuses, circuit breakers and cables.  There are also ‘special locations’ sections which cover locations such as bathrooms, swimming pools, building sites and medical buildings/areas (these locations have differing, more stringent requirements due to the increased risks encountered in these areas).

This is the main of rules which you would hear your electrician or electrical contractor refer to as the ‘regs’ or ‘big blue book’.  The colour of the book changes with each edition so that it is easier to identify, thus the ‘big book’ changes every few years.

The edition of the regulations in force at the time of this article is BS7671:2008 (AMD3:2015).  Whilst this might be a mouthful, in a nutshell: the edition was the 17th released in 2008.  There have been 3 amendments since them, and the latest one, in 2015 was the 3rd amendment (yellow as a matter of interest!)

On the 1st July 2018 the 18th edition was released.  This edition is blue!  The regulations were released on the 1st July after a period of consultation, however compliance is required by 1st Jan 2019.

Electricity At Work Regulations 1989

The ‘Electricity At Work Regulations 1989’, also called ‘EAWR’ amongst the trade, are a set of regulations which affect employers and self-employed persons.   Basically, it places an onus of responsibility on those people to ensure that electrical installations are built, maintained and inspected in a safe manner.

Whilst this might feel very relevant to commercial electrical customers, domestic electrical customers may be left wondering why a regulation with work in the title would apply to them?  Well, you need to remember that your electrician or electrical contractor IS at work when in your home!

It also places duties on employers with regards portable electrical items within the workplace.  Obviously, this is more of an issue for commercial customers.

BS 5266-1 – Emergency Lighting

BS 5266-1 is the standard which covers the design, installation, certification & maintenance of emergency lighting systems.  Known as a ‘code of practice’, this set of regulations more pertains to commercial electrical customers rather than domestic.  It is still worth mentioning here however, as it is a standard which is often used in the world of electrical contracting.

Certain buildings will require emergency lighting fitting as part of their design.  These lights help to illuminate emergency exits, stairwells and to illuminate open areas to avoid panic.  In the event of machinery being used in the area, differing rules can apply again due to increased risks presented in such areas.

The emergency lighting regulations in force at the time of writing were introduced in 2016 and replaced a previous set of regulations which had been in place since 2011

BS 5839 – Fire Detection & Fire Alarm Systems

This is another important set of regulations for electrical contractors in the UK.

BS 5839 is subdivided into 2 separate subsets of regulations as follows:

The regulations have been segmented due to the differing types of system which would need to be used for each type of premise.  Although the overall need for safety is the same, the way domestic & non-domestic properties differ in their construction and use alters the requirements quite drastically.

This is an important piece of regulation which is used on a regular basis by electrical contractors in the UK.  New build houses must have mains powered smoke alarms (BS5839-6) whilst nearly all commercial or industrial premises will require a fire alarm system of some description.

Other Regulations

Electrical Contractors in the UK also have to be aware of a large number of other regulations, statutes and codes of practice.  These can vary from requirements of safety to the installation, to product standards.

A small sample (although by no means complete) of the additional regulations which affect electricians or electrical contractors, can be seen in the list below:

  • BS67 – Specification for ceiling roses
  • BS88 – Specification denoting a range of fuses
  • BS951 – Electrical earthing – specification for clamps for earthing & bonding
  • BS1361 – Specification for household cartridge fuses
  • BS1363 – 13A plugs, socket outlets and connection units
  • BS4177 – Specification for cooker control units
  • BS6004 – Electrical Cables
  • BS6724 – Armoured Electrical Cables (Low Smoke)
  • The Building Regulations (2013)


As you can see, electrical contractors are subject to a myriad of differing regulations when completing their work.  Electrical contracting is possibly one of the most regulated industries with literally hundreds of different standards, statutes, code of practices, etc…..


I hope this has helped give some insight into how complex the world of Electrical Contracting in the UK can be!


James Raby

ElectricBlu Contractors

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