White Light recently hosted the industry's first seminar on the application of the recent British Standard covering temporary power systems by Avitas Global. The 16-strong audience consisted of a diverse range of delegates including broadcasters, production managers, event electricians, video rental companies and even an engineer from a power station! The seminar covered the important aspects of the interaction between legislation and standards and went on to look at how the electrical industry's 'bible' - otherwise known as the IEE Wiring Regulations – and the new temporary power standard BS 7909 are entwined.
Supported by Installation Europe, the seminar explored a range of other issues such as the testing and certification requirements of BS 7909 and in particular showed how it is easy to complete if equipment delivered to site is all PAT tested. The seminar also exampled how current industry practice was not necessarily the best practice by demonstrating how common methods of electricity distribution can lead to potentially dangerous situations through a lack of understanding.
According to James Eade who gave the seminar, "I think our industry has a good safety record on paper from an electrical point of view, but most practitioners have either witnessed first-hand or heard of others getting electric shocks of some level which go unreported. Also, rental companies often see the effects of mistakes in the form of kit returning to the warehouse with gaffa tape all over it and a short phrase in choice words indicating its failure." The presentation showed images of distribution equipment having suffered catastrophic (and expensive) failure caused by the changes to the phase colour codes by way of a recent example.
As such the purpose of the seminar was to highlight why these standards are important and to try and dispel the myths and confusion about how and when they apply, which ultimately will lead to a safer environment for all. Eade pointed out that complying with the standards is not hard provided you are an electrically competent person "but we have think a little outside the box. For example, just because a cable has a 16A Ceeform on the ends doesn't mean we can safely draw 16A from the socket". Dispelling this 'plug and play' approach to site distribution was a recurring theme and simple examples were highlighted to demonstrate how safety devices such as RCDs and MCBs may not work effectively in typical practice, especially with the growth of electronic equipment.
Management of the electrical systems at events was also covered in depth and a series of team exercises were played out using event based scenarios to highlight why effective management is required as well as the need for a competent electrical person. The response to the seminar was excellent and can be summed up by one delegate who works for a large well-known rental company who said "It has been enlightening, thank you! We are going to have do some serious work to get our house in order though."
Eade, who represents PLASA members on the committees writing these standards, had some salient observations about the industry in general: "The entertainment industry currently has few burdens as far as electrical practices are concerned, compared with the construction industry for example. It is important though that we move with the times and get more professional about it, the spectre of greater regulation of the electrical industry in general is in the pipeline. We will undoubtedly get caught up in that so it is far better to get our house in order first and present a strong front to potential changes. That can only come from the industry of course and that's why I think this seminar is important".
The next course dates have yet to be finalised but you can pre-register your interest by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Avitas Global website for more information.