Understanding the Role of a Competent Person in Electrical Safety & Electrical Installation and Maintenance

In the realm of electrical work and safety, the term “competent person” is of paramount importance.

It is a key concept in the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and is crucial for ensuring safety in the workplace.

This article will explore what it means to be a competent person in the context of electrical work, the legal requirements, the necessity of continuous professional development (CPD), and the role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK.

What is a Competent Person in Electrical Work?

A competent person in the context of electrical work is someone who has the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to perform electrical tasks safely and effectively.

This isn’t a title that is given lightly; it encompasses a deep understanding of electrical systems, the hazards associated with them, and the safety practices required to mitigate these hazards.

Requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 places a legal obligation on employers to ensure that all electrical systems are constructed, maintained, and operated in a way that prevents danger.

Under these regulations, any work on electrical systems must be carried out by, or under the supervision of, a competent person.

This ensures that:

  • The risks associated with the electrical work are correctly identified and managed.
  • The work is planned and carried out safely, adhering to legal and professional standards.
  • Appropriate emergency procedures are in place and understood.

The Need for Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

The field of electrical work is continually evolving with new technologies, methods, and regulations.

Therefore, it is vital for a competent person to engage in continuous professional development.

CPD ensures that they remain up-to-date with the latest safety standards, technological advancements, and best practices.

Regular training, attending workshops and seminars, and staying informed about industry changes are all part of CPD.

For NAPIT registered electricians and IET Qualified Engineers, there is a requirement for annual continuous professional development to retain their professional qualifications.

The Role of Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health & Safety Executive plays a critical role in ensuring the enforcement of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

They provide guidance and resources to help employers and workers understand what it means to be competent in electrical work.

The HSE also:

  • Inspects workplaces to ensure compliance with the regulations.
  • Investigates accidents and incidents involving electrical work to determine if there was a breach of safety regulations.
  • Enforces penalties and provides directives for non-compliance, ensuring that standards are maintained.

The Competent Person’s Responsibilities

Being a competent person carries significant responsibilities. These include:

  1. Risk Assessment: Conducting or overseeing risk assessments to identify potential electrical hazards.
  2. Safe Work Practices: Implementing safe working practices and ensuring that these are followed by all personnel involved in electrical work.
  3. Emergency Procedures: Understanding and establishing appropriate emergency procedures related to electrical work.
  4. Documentation: Keeping accurate records of electrical work, inspections, and maintenance activities.

Ensuring Competency

Employers must take steps to ensure that their employees who undertake electrical work are competent.

This can involve:

  • Providing adequate training and professional development opportunities.
  • Ensuring employees are up-to-date with the latest electrical safety standards and practices.
  • Assessing the skills and knowledge of employees on a regular basis.


A competent person in the context of electrical work is not just a skilled technician; they are a safeguard against electrical hazards in the workplace.

Their role is critical in preventing accidents and ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone involved.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 mandate their involvement in electrical work, and the HSE oversees the implementation of these regulations.

Continuous professional development is essential for maintaining competency, and it is the responsibility of both the individual and their employer to ensure that this is achieved.

Ultimately, the safety in electrical work hinges on the competence of those who undertake it, making the role of a competent person integral to workplace safety.