18th Edition Book: Wiring Regulations (Regs)

What is the 18th Edition Wiring Regulations Book?

The IET’s (Institute of Engineering and Technology) Requirements for Electrical Installations goes by many aliases; the 18th Edition, BS7671:2018, the Big Blue Book, Wiring Regs, or simply the Regs. But regardless of what you call it, one thing is for sure – if you’re involved in the design, installation or maintenance of electric wiring, you’re going to need it.

18th edition bookEffective from 1st January 2019, the 18th Edition sets out the most recent British standard for any domestic, commercial or industrial electrical installation. It’s main intention is to provide a safety framework across the UK electrotechnical industry, but it bears professional significance for electricians, surveyors and architects alike. As the name suggests, it is number eighteen in a series of regulation publications, with the 1st Edition issued as far back as 1882. ‘Rules and Regulations for the prevention of Fire Risks Arising from Electric Lighting’ was written shortly after the inaugural switch-on of electric street lighting in England, and it has been updated recurrently ever since.

The 18th Edition’s predecessor, the 17th Edition, was released in January 2008. If we consider this in the context of our own adaptation across that eleven year period, it becomes easy to see why an upgrade may have been necessary. In 2008 the first iPhone was just six months old, only half of the UK had switched from dial-up internet to broadband, and we were four years away from a new online streaming service called Netflix. We didn’t charge our vacuum cleaners, or our watches, and we didn’t talk to our music devices or our doorbells. Our reliance on electricity and our need for more utilisation points has increased exponentially. New-build houses now often have six sockets per room instead of one, and new legislation will mean they must also have EV (electric vehicle) charging installations. It makes sense then, that the regulations should be adapted and updated in line with our rapidly changing demands.

The Wiring Regulations book is published by the IET and the BSI (British Standards Institution), who jointly manage a committee called JPEL/64. This committee is made up of representatives from across the UK electrotechnical industries, and is responsible for developing the Regs. Not only this, but the JPEL/64 committee has an obligation to engage with over-arching European and international committees (CENELEC and IEC), for the advancement of all standards and to support electrotechnical harmonisation across the globe.

Developing new, and amending existing regulations ahead of the next edition of the Wiring Regulations is a rigorous process. It not only involves standardisation with CENELEC and IEC regulations, but there is also a public consultation period or draft for public consideration (DPC). The DPC period is three months long, and means members of the UK public can offer comments for consideration ahead of a final draft and publication.

With so many changes afoot, it is easy to see the importance of maintaining and updating your knowledge of the Regs as an electrotechnical professional.

18th Edition Book in Practice

The 18th Edition book is predominantly used by, but not limited to, electricians and electrical contractors. If you are an electrician, you are probably already extremely familiar with the Regs. It not only supports domestic and commercial installations, but it also underpins electrical practices in environments like agricultural premises, caravans, external lighting, mobile units, temporary installations, fairgrounds, highway equipment and street lighting.

Using the 18th Edition book will ensure that any installation you design, conduct or maintain adheres to the most recent guidelines. If an installation does not comply with the parameters set out in the book, then it could be deemed unsafe or inefficient. It is expected that you will use the Wiring Regulations book in practice. This means, whilst you’re not required to memorise all 555 pages, it should be part of your toolkit and applied constantly in real, working scenarios.

Structure of the Book

The book is set out in seven parts and certainly isn’t for the faint hearted. It is full of exactly what it says it is, regulations. But fear not, there is a logic that can be followed. Once you are able to navigate the sections of the book, you will be able to easily find your way around it and apply it to the scenario in hand. The seven parts are;

  • Part 1 – Scope, Object and Fundamental Principles
  • Part 2 – Definitions
  • Part 3 – Assessment of General Characteristics
  • Part 4 – Protection for Safety
  • Part 5 – Selection and Erection of Equipment
  • Part 6 – Inspection and Testing
  • Part 7 – Special Installations or Locations

The first two parts are your guide to the book. They provide you with the ‘scope’ of the Regs, explaining what’s included, what the basic principles of electrical installations are, and providing you with definitions of the most commonly used terms within the book.

The next four parts are the practical application of those in-scope principles and topics, including important safety requirements with a predominant focus on reducing the risk of injury and damage. The concept is simple; when starting a new installation, you should consult the Regs and ensure you’ve considered all aspects that might impact your specific scenario. It should then be used as a reference on equipment and environment, and also as an assurance guide, either once you’ve completed the installation or on review of an existing installation.

Understanding how to use the Wiring Regulations is recognised across the industry as an increasingly important skill. For that reason, there is a recognised qualification that tests your ability to use the 18th Edition book.

Has much changed since the 17th Edition?

Whilst most electricians or electrical contractors may be familiar with the 17th Edition, and confident working within the previous regulations, there have been some important updates this time around. Understanding these revisions and amendments is crucial to ensuring your technical knowledge is up-to-date, and you’re working safely within the 18th Edition Wiring Regulations. Here are a few example changes:

  • Overvoltage protection is now required in circumstances where there is a risk of serious injury or loss of life, disruption to commercial and industrial activity or interruption of public services.
  • There is a recommendation to install AFDDs (Arc Fault Detection Devices) in certain circumstances, to protect against overheating and potentially fire caused by arc faults in electrical equipment.
  • An increased focus on energy efficiency, including recommendations around the design and erection of electrical installations.
  • There have been some structure changes, including the introduction of a new chapter (chapter 46) and a rework of chapter 53.

Do I need the 18th Edition Wiring Regulations qualification?

Since the regulations came into force on 1st January 2019, there has been increased pressure to bring electrotechnical professionals up to the most recent standards of the IET. In previous years, it was possible to become registered with Electrical Registration bodies or Competent Person Scheme providers such as ECS and NICEIC without completing the 17th Edition qualification. Now, when assessing the competence of ‘Registered Electrician’ status cardholders, ECS specify that you must hold, and provide evidence of, the BS7671:2018 qualification.

In addition to this, many employers now require it as a prerequisite. If you are looking to move ahead in your career, become a self-employed electrician or contractor, or switch employers, it would be wise to consider bringing your qualifications up-to-date and taking the 18th Edition exam.

What to Expect During the BS7671:2018 Exam?

The 18th Edition Wiring Regulations exam is open book, meaning you can take your own copy of the Regs in with you. You are permitted to highlight helpful parts of the text in your book, and bookmark pages with post-it notes, but you may not annotate the margins or bring in any historic questions or answers. It is a two hour exam, consisting of sixty questions, and must be taken at an approved test centre.There are three main certification bodies; City & Guilds, EAL or Logic Certification. You will be certified with a Level 3 Award in the Requirements for Electrical Installations BS7671:2018 once you pass the examination.

The BS7671:2018 examination is the same regardless of whether you’re entirely new to the field, or if you’ve completed examinations on historic wiring regulation editions. But if you’re fully up to speed on the last Regs book, you may feel confident enough to focus your revision on the changes that have occurred this time around.

The most important thing to remember, is that you’re being tested on the practical application of the book. You are not expected to memorise the contents of the book, but you should understand the structure, and where and how to find the relevant information in order to answer the questions.

One of the best ways to prepare, and understand exactly what to expect in the exam room, is to practice. Answering practice questions, completing mock tests in the allocated time, and familiarising yourself with navigating the 18th Edition book.

You can receive access to 1000+ questions, and 20+ tests by signing up to the 18th Edition Premium Access membership level here.