Have you ever thought about the electricity in your home or your place of work? Have you ever thought about what would happen if the wiring was faulty? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work on an electrical installation all day? Despite being married to an electrician, to be honest, these aren’t the types of questions on which I pondered; however, lockdown has changed all our lives and during these strange times, I have had the opportunity to explore the eye-opening world of electrical inspection and testing, which is a world away from my usual day job as a school teacher. How did a teacher find herself working with an electrician, you might ask? Well, in January of this year, I decided to resign from my position as a teacher because the school was a fair distance from home and I had been deeply unhappy there for some time. In accordance with my contract, I had to give one term’s notice (at least), which meant that my last working day at school was 3rd April 2020. Unfortunately, I had not managed to secure another teaching role for April and, of course, I hadn’t anticipated a global pandemic! Therefore, my thoughts of supply teaching in the interim went out of the window. Instead, I found myself unemployed and facing confinement without the routine and purpose of work or freedom to wander freely.
I needn’t have worried because, thanks to my husband Louis (whose company is ACtest Limited) I have not become idle as, occasionally, I have been allowed to accompany him on site, gaining hands-on electrical experience as an electrician’s apprentice – always under strict supervision from hubby, I might add. Apart from what I learned about circuit symbols and wiring a plug at school, my electrical knowledge is limited. Fortunately, Louis is a patient, encouraging teacher and, before I was even allowed to go on site with him, he provided several multi-function testing training sessions at home during and taught me the basics and dangers of electricity. For those of you who have met Louis, he has a great sense of humour but he is very serious about the dangers of electricity and the importance of clear communication when working on electricity. As part of my training, I was also instructed to watch a NICEIC video about safe electrical isolation procedures in different settings – I felt like I was student back at school!
During week six of the lockdown, Louis and I headed to North London to conduct a fixed wiring inspection in a three-bedroom property as an imminent change of tenant at the property prompted an EICR (Electrical Installation Condition Report). It was lovely to see the soaring buzzards and sprawling green fields as we travelled along the motorway. One of the things that I have noticed since the lockdown is that I tend to soak up nature more deeply than ever as if trying to cherish every detail as much as possible. The journey took a fraction of the usual time due to fewer vehicles on the road (so I’m told), and we arrived on site in good time.
Before we exited our van, in accordance with our COVID-19 risk assessment, we donned matching gloves and ‘fetching’ face masks along with wipes, anti-bacterial hand sanitiser, tissues, soap and tools in tow. COVID-19 certainly prolongs work procedures because items have to be cleaned more often and there is a hyper vigilance about what has been touched. Both of us have become very disciplined in not touching our faces, rubbing our eyes or mouths. I think it goes without saying that there is an air of palpable apprehension about this for everyone, whenever leaving the home, a feeling that must be particularly amplified amongst key workers; however, it is wonderful to be of help to people, especially, during these critical times as I can see now that due diligence, with respect to electrical maintenance, is more essential than ever against the background of the government’s constant refrain of ‘stay home’.
At 08:00, the welcoming client contact arrived promptly and briefly showed Louis around the vacant house whilst I stayed outside in order to observe social distancing – social distancing is so strange, I’m not sure I’ll ever grow used to being metres apart from people on a day-to-day basis. The client soon vacated the premises as planned and left us to conduct the inspection for the day.
Firstly, we walked around and outside the house to determine the general state of the external electrical systems property, accessibility and whether the house had more than one distribution board. It was an ideal property to work on during this pandemic because it was empty, apart from some whitegoods, which meant movement around the building was easier than usual. I listened and followed instructions carefully as we worked methodically, moving from room to room. I won’t bore you by going into all the comprehensive details of what was conducted on the site as it would be too exhaustive to record all content here but, in summary, I checked sockets, tightened connections, replaced some faulty sockets, took electrical readings by using a multi-function tester and, one of the most satisfying elements of the assignment was that I located a fault – a broken loop in a ring main conductor – and rectified it, too! This is not something electricians are obliged to do (although ACtest often does perform this additional service free of charge, wherever possible) during a fixed wiring inspection. According to the 18th IET Wiring Regulations BS 7671:2018, the purpose of an EICR is to provide an engineering view on whether or not the installation is in a satisfactory conditions where it can continue to be used safely; therefore, an EICR is a report, a snapshot, if you will, on the electrical installation as it is.
One of the more annoying aspects of the job was the fact that some of the wiring in the sockets had not been tightened securely and placing the front covers on after testing can be a really fiddly and thankless task. Another thing I have learned: electrical work is hard graft mentally and physically and I have the utmost respect for electricians as there is so much to remember and focus on as you don’t want to inadvertently injure or kill anyone by accidently energising circuits when you shouldn’t. During the job, there was also a great deal of lifting steps, kneeling down on hard flooring, going up and down stairs to energise and de-energise circuits at the distribution board; therefore, I definitely got a physical workout, too.
What I have discovered about myself during this lockdown is that I have more strings to my bow than I thought and that I can still be helpful. Although I miss working with children, I haven’t missed the children’s squabbling at lunchtime; in fact, I have rather enjoyed exploring another side of myself and I take comfort in the flexibility, peace and quiet of working alongside my husband. Many of my skills from teaching have been transferable, such as verbal and interpersonal skills, communication, attention to detail and diagnostic skills. If I feel this way, I am sure that many of you, if you haven’t done so already, would benefit from experimenting and trying out new ventures during this pandemic. I am not saying that I wish to leave teaching permanently or retrain and become an electrician but I am less fearful about trying out something new.
If any of you are finding this lockdown difficult because you have been furloughed or there has been a downturn in your business, I gently encourage you to learn something new…maybe something you have had fleeting daydreams about but never had the time to explore properly. Whatever you choose to do, whether it’s learning a new skill or specialising in a particular niche, I wish you all the best in your endeavours.
Do you have any positive lockdown experiences that you would like to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, if you wish to send your stories.
Stay well and safe.
With love and best wishes,
ACtest is offering safe services, if you are in need of electrical services please call us now on 0203 5815729. www.actest.co.uk