When it comes to anything electrical, safety is of paramount importance in terms of both who does the work and also how the work is done. To ensure that any work is done to the correct standards the Wiring Regulations were introduced.
In this DIY guide we look at the BS7671 Wiring Regulations and why they were introduced to ensure that any electrical work is done to high standards and any products used also conform to those standards.
What are the BS7671 Wiring Regulations?
The Regulations themselves exist purely to create a standard by which all electrical installations that use mains generated electricity, are installed in domestic and commercial environments in the UK that supply voltages up to 1000 AC volts and up to 1500 DC volts.
The Wiring Regulations are designed primarily to keep both the public, electricians and buildings safe from harm of any kind which could be associated with electrical wiring, it’s connection through electrical circuits, any work that has been carried out and also any products that have been used to complete the work.
When electrical work is carried out by an electrician, the regulations will have ensured that your chosen electrician (as long as he/she is Part P registered, which they should be if they are actively working) has had all of the necessary training required to ensure they know exactly what they are doing, how a given job should be done and how to fully test it once complete.
The regulations also ensure that whatever products are used to complete the job are also up to standard in that they are fit for purpose. For example they ensure that the correct gauge of cable is used for the circuit or appliance it’s supplying, the correct amperage of junction box, switch etc. are used and so on.
They also ensure that once a given job has been completed that the electrician that’s done the work knows exactly how to fully test the install to ensure that all is well and that’s safe to use. To confirm this, they then issue what’s known as a works completion or minor works certificate. This confirms to anyone that the work has been carried out to regulations standards.
What is the British Standards Institute
The British Standards Institute (founded 1901 as the Engineering Standards Committee) was set up to provide a standard (an agreed way of doing something). For a full explanation of standards and what they can be defined as can be found here on the BSI website.
"Providing a realisable basis for people to share the same expectations about a product or service while enhancing consumer protection and confidence" – The BSI Group Ltd
When working to British Standards, organisations are expected to use a quality management standard, health and safety standards, security standards, construction and energy standards as well as the standards that apply in their own industry.
British Standards are guidelines only, they are not enforceable by law, however individual organisations can insist that any products or services supplied comply with all recommendations contained in any given British Standard. This is certainly the case with the Electrical Regulations and BS7671.
Who Makes the Rules?
When it comes to who actually produces the Wiring Regulations, globally the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) produce a the standards for international electrical work and then the The European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) use these to produce the standards specific to Europe.
In respect to UK electrical regulations, BS7671, these are co-published by the IET (formerly IEE) and BSI (British Standards Institution) using the information provided by the CENELEC, with the IET taking on the role as the authority on electrical Installation.
This collective of bodies is known as JPEL/64. To ensure that the committee members truly represent the entire electrical industry, its members are carefully chosen from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. These include electrical product manufacturers, training body providers, the competent persons scheme, the HSE and many others.
Before any new ruling or regulation is passed and committed to an amended BS7671, all different opions from all committee members are fully discussed and considered.
If you would like to find out more about how the bS7671 regulations are formed and who is responsible for them, see theiet.org website here.
Who Introduced the BS7671 Wiring Regulations?
The BS7671 Wiring Regulations were originally introduced on the 11 May 1882. Following on from several domestic and industrial accidents that were the result of incorrect installation, it was decided that there was a pretty urgent need for a set of regulations that governed exactly how electrical installations were carried out.
Shortly after this a committee was formed by the predecessors of the IEE and now the IET, the Council of the Society of Telegraph Engineers who penned the first edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations.
Unfortunately the electrical community at large were not keen on adopting yet another set of rules as most insurance companies/offices and engineers had at the time their own sets of rules and regulations and also ultimately didn’t regard the IEE as an “official body”, however the committee persisted and kept improving and adding to the regulations document.
However it wasn’t until around 1916 that their 7th edition, known then as the IEE Wiring Regulations, were actually adopted by the many insurance houses and engineers as the official standard for electrical installations and from this point onwards were regarded as the “go-to” document for guidance.
A Brief History of the BS7671 and Associated Wiring Regulations
In terms of significant dates and publications, the following are considered milestone events in the life of the Wiring Regulations:
First Edition Issued
In 1882, the first edition of the wiring regulations (The Regs) was published as a guidance structure for preventing fires which were caused by electric lighting, a problem which was prolific in the late 1800s as people latched on to this new form of lighting.
The first electric light was actually made by Humphrey Davy in 1800 but the filament burned out very quickly and subsequent inventors and scientists embarked on the search for a filament that would glow without burning.
In 1879 Thomas Edison discovered that passing a current through a carbon filament held in an oxygen free glass bulb, would glow for over 40 hours without burning. He worked on this design for the next few years producing, in 1881, a bulb which would glow bright for over 1500 hours.
Throughout this time however, less robust bulbs and burning filaments were responsible for a great deal of fires as the unattended, burning filaments fell onto flammable items. The Wiring Regulations were born only at that time and they were referred to as rules.
Third Edition Renamed
In 1897 the 3rd Edition was published and they were called “General Rules recommended for Wiring the Supply of Electrical
Electric cables were now being installed to carry electrical current to all parts of the house. These cables could easily overheat, causing fires, and this added to the problem caused by the low grade lighting filaments.
IEE Responsible for Producing Regulations
The Wiring Rules became the Wiring Regulations in 1903 when the IEE (institute of Electrical Engineers) had become recognised as an authority after being founded in 1871 and then changing their name from The Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians in 1889. They were now solely responsible for producing the regulations.
In 1921, the IEE was incorporated by Royal Charter.
Adopted by the BS – British Standards
In 1992, to make the regulations more enforceable by law on all levels including domestic electrical work, works related to the regulations governing electricity at work and also works on an international level, the Wiring Regulations were brought into the British Standards.
Brought into Building Regulations
To further enforce the regulations from a legal stand-point, in 2005 the IEE Wiring Regulations were brought into the Building Regulations in the form of Part P.
From this point onwards, any electrician would have to ensure that he/she was Part P trained and registered which would ensure that their work met the BS7671 electrical installation requirements.
Wire Colours Harmonised in 2006
Although initially introduced in 2004, the adoption of the harmonised were colours used in Europe came into effect in March 2006, meaning that the previous red, black and green/yellow wires found in most cables now became brown, blue and green/yellow.
This was to ensure that all wiring colours used across Europe would be the same colour. Find out more on this in our wire colours project here.
IEE Changed to the IET
In 2006 the IEE became the IET (The Institution of Engineering and Technology. More about the history of the IET can be found here.
17th Edition Introduced
On the 1st of July 2008, the 17th edition of the Wiring Regulations came into effect. This edition featured many changes and effectively marked a new start for the regs as it was essentially a complete reworking and review of previous documents that had undergone quite a few changes and amalgamated all of these updates into one document.
When it comes to the actual publication history of each IEE/IET Wiring Regulations edition, they are as follows:
|Edition||Publication Year||Changes Made|
|1st Edition||1882||Called The Wiring Rules|
|2nd||1888||Titled Wiring Rules and Regulations in Buildings|
|3rd||1897||Titled General Rules recommended for Wiring for the Supply of Electrical Energy|
|4th||1903||IEE now responsible for Wiring rules so called Wiring Rules|
|5th||1907||Name changed to IEE Wiring Regulations|
|6th||1911||Still referred to as IEE Wiring Regulations|
|7th||1916||Still referred to as IEE Wiring Regulations|
|8th||1924||Name changed to IEE Regulations for the Electrical Equipment of Buildings|
|9th||1927||Still referred to as IEE Wiring Regulations|
|10th||1934||Released and referred to as Regulations 3 phase colours|
|11th||1939||Originally issued as IEE Wiring Regulations but revised in 1943, reprint with minor amendments in 1945, supplement in 1946, further revised in 1948|
|12th||1950||Again issued as IEE Wiring Regulations and then supplement issued in 1954|
|13th||1955||Reprinted in 1958, 1961, 1962, 1964|
|14th||1966||Reprinted in 1968, 1969, 1969 again (in metric units), 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976|
|15th||1981||Suggested reprints from 1983 until 1988|
|16th||1991||Reprinted with amendments 1992, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2004|
|British Standard adopted||1992||Wiring Regulations brought into British Standard to become BS 7671. Also Electricity at Work Regs come into play in Northern Ireland|
|Brought into Building Regulations||2005||On the 1st January Part P was born and suggested that for electricians to achieve compliance with regs they follow BS 7671 Wiring Regulations. See our separate project on Part P|
|17th Edition||2008||17th edition launched on 1st July 2008. Document amended 1st Jan 2012, 2013 and finally January 2015|
|18th Edition||2018||18th edition launched July 2018 and came into effect January 2019. First amended in 2020 and then amended again in March 2022. Remains the current standard to work to|
Thanks to Wikipedia for the information contained in the table above.
As a point of interest, because DIY Doctor is visited by people from so many countries, our wiring regulations are also used as standard practice in Mauritius, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Trinidad & Tobago, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, St Lucia and Uganda.
Why do the Regulations Change?
As with all things, change is inevitable. If things didn’t change then everything would remain at a total standstill and nothing would ever evolve.
In some cases, change isn’t always the best thing but when it comes to the electrical industry, change and development is an absolute must as without it new products and practices that can save time, money and even lives would never come about.
In respect to this, as working practices change so must the rules and regulations that govern them to ensure that they remain relevant and up to date with how particular jobs are done hence the reason they change as regularly as they do.
Guidance on the Application of the Requirements of 17th Edition IEE regulations
As we have discussed above, the IET (formerly the IEE) are jointly responsible for publishing the BS7671 Wiring Regulations along with the BSI (British Standards Institute) and in the UK, both are regarded as the overall authority on any form of UK electrical installation.
In order to ensure that all aspects of the industry are fully considered in each edition or amendment of the regulations, the JPEL/64 committee was formed that includes representatives from all over the electrical industry with the task of reviewing both UK and international regulations in order to ensure BS7671 remains fully up to date and relevant.
In terms of the body of members that actually make up JPEL/64, these are various and include some of the following and many more:
- BEAMA (British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers’ Association)
- B T Plc. – British Telecommunications Plc
- British Cables Association
- City and Guilds of London Institute
- Competent Persons Forum
- Electrical Contractors Association
- Electrical Safety First
- HSE – Health and Safety Executive
- IET – Institution of Engineering and Technology
- MoD – UK Defence Standardization
- NAPIT – National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers
- NHS Scotland
- Safety Assessment Federation Ltd
The above is not a compete list by any means as members can change quite often. It is possible to become a member of the committee by applying, so if you wish to apply or view the current list of committee member or categories covered by the committee, see the bsigroup.com website here
How is Safety Information Regarding the Wiring Regulations Given to the Public?
A large amount of the responsibility for getting safety messages regarding the application of the wiring regulations to consumers and contractors alike is given to the Electrical Safety Council who do this through their website called Electrical Safety First.
Electrical Safety First is a charity dedicated to reducing injury and death caused by electrical accidents. Advice is provided by experts via an advice and guide section which explains how to stay safe with:
- Visual checks on appliances and installations in the home
- Safety first on electrical DIY
- Kitchen electrical safety
- Bathroom electrical safety
- Electrical safety in the garden
- Fire safety
- Earthing and Bonding help
- Fuses – What they do and how they do it
- Circuit breakers – What are they
- Residual Current Devices
- Checking the age of your wiring
- Electrical Dangers round the home
- Checking the condition of plugs, flexible cables and sockets
- Adaptors and extension leads
As with JPEL/64, any and all requirements and amendments to the advice and guidance that is offered is first discussed and then agreed by a panel of members known as WRAG or the Wiring Regulations Advisory Group.
This committee if formed from members of numerous reputable bodies, overseen by Electrical Safety First and includes the following organisations:
- Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors: The aims of the APHC are to provide heating and
plumbing engineers with benefits and support which enables them to run their businesses profitably and successfully. They also exist to encourage best practice and training within their members to make sure the consumer enjoys quality workmanship and good service
- BEAMA (British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers’ Association): is a Trade Association representing
manufacturers of products which are used to provide electrical infrastructures and systems. Some of their work involves trying to gain a level of standardisation in political and regulatory issues in the UK (and at European and International levels)
- BSI Product Services: The testing and certification arm of the British Standards Institute
- British Gas: One of the oldest and largest suppliers of gas to homes in the UK having been in operation for over 200 years
- City & Guilds: One of the largest skills providers in the UK and responsible for helping many thousands of people and businesses grow and develop their skills
- Corgi Technical Services: Responsible for helping develop and educate many trade professionals and companies in how to stay safe around gas and gas appliances
- ECA: The Electrical Contractors Association is a Trade Association which has at heart the interests of the consumer and it’s members by representing the contractors who provide, install, inspect and test electronic and electrical equipment and services
- ELECSA Ltd: Providing inspection, assessment and certification services to contractors working across the building
services sectors. Especially designed to inspect and certify for Part P of the building Regulations
- Electrical Safety Council: An advisory body ensuring that everyone in the UK has an understanding of the importance of electrical safety
- The IET: Responsible for helping to administer and maintain WRAG regulations plus also maintain many other regulatory areas as stated above
- LCL Awards: Responsible for developing and delivering training, qualifications and certification fo many areas of the building industry
- NAPIT Registration Ltd: The National (Trade) Association of Electrical Inspectors and Testers A competent persons
scheme designed to ensure the quality and reliability of tradesmen
- NHBC – National Home Builders Council: The leading UK supplier of warranty and insurance for new build properties and ensure that quality standards are maintained
- NICEIC Group Ltd: The National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting. Providing regulation and training for quality electricians who meet all required standards
- OFTEC: Oil and Renewable Heating Technologies. A trade association providing competent persons for gas and renewable energy installations
- SELECT: Scotland’s Trade Association for the electrical and electronics communications system industry
The electrical regulations (encompassing the IET regs, Approved Documents etc.) cover pretty much all aspects of wiring and electrical installation and although some see them as a pain and hindrance, they are absolutely essential in ensuring that those carrying out electrical work and the end user of any installation work is kept safe from injury from start to finish!