Part M Building regs- CU Placement

19 Jan 2007
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United Kingdom
When does this new reg apply ?

Part M has been amended to include the placement of CU's.

CU's must be placed in an accessable position at a suggested height of between 900mm-1200mm above floor line in an OPEN area.

No longer will at height hall area installations or under stairs locations be acceptable.

Here's an extract from the IEE forum

Reading the mag Electrical and Mechanical Contractor (April 07) page 58 'Rule Breaker or Risk Taker' Mr Steve Dyson on about CU's being 1200 mm from FFL.

All about part M and CU's should be 1200 mm from FF. Well as a sparky my thoughts are wrong wrong wrong. Ok some folks are in wheel chairs and might require to get to a CU to remake a breaker. However their numbers are a tiny percent of the population when compared to children who's one purpose in life is to play and fiddle with things.

So I read up on Part M, section 8, of the regs and find there is no mention of CU's its all about switches and sockets and making thinks easy for those folks who need our help. Great no real answer so why is Steve Dyson going on about CU's at 1200 mm?

So on to local building control in my town? I raise my concern that the builder I am woking for does not want any problems ref part M and I want to know the correct answer to the problem. Any how they are getting back to me tomorrow I will up date you all. Also I have asked for their answer in writing to me.

My concern is that a child of age 2 is in fact 1/2 it's adult height. Kids and fizzy coke and electrical things don't got together. A CU is not designed to provide IP protection to fizzy drinks and little kids fingers so this is going to hurt.

The worst case for a kid is death. The worst case for a wheel chair person is a circiut does not work until an able person helps them out should a breaker or RCD trip.

Why is this not sorted we as sparky's are in limbo about this and it is wrong.

Me Iwant CU's out of reach to kiddies full stop. I hope that is the answer I get from building control tomorrow.

In the end of the day it has to be risk reduction for the intended user and these being starter homes means little kids are going to be present.

Another one, is Part B Fire door requirements- From 6th April all loft converted dwellings will require all internal doors to be fire rated.
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When you say all internal doors, do you mean even the ones not in the stairwell, only as far as I know all bedroom doors in the stairwell have had to be 1/2 hour fireproof for many years, when doing a loft conversion.
Cannot find anything other than the expected relating to Consumer Unit... Searched
That search is valid if the terminology 'Consumer Unit' remains the same twixt SI's... Is this a take on the 'intent' of some ruling or another?

A bit melodramatic about kids and CUs what's wrong with a lock on it!

In fact I think all lids on CUs should have provision for locks just for safe isolation purposes.

Relocating CUs so they're accessable could be a costly exercise as most at present are tucked away out of sight out of mind!! Or on new builds at ceiling height.

Hopefully common sense will prevail as on most rewires I have done accessories have been installed at original height and a departure noted on EIC.

I've also had this confirmed by LABC.
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OK, I'm finally convinced that the IEEE have been smoking something. Something which doesn't conform to the intoxicating substances regs, too. :rolleyes:

A CU in the open, exposed, at a height where kids can fool around with it, furniture can bash into it, and malicious people can trip the lights/computer/fridge/whatever whenever they like? This is just plain barmy.
Here's the article from Electrical and Mechanical contractor mag:-

Steve Dyson explains why most new housebuilds fail to meet Part P and Part M of the Building Regulations.

When it comes to mounting consumer units, Part P and Part M of the Building Regulations have left many in the industry confused.

Traditionally, the consumer unit is positioned either high up on the wall out of eye line, in the downstairs toilet or perhaps in a cupboard under the stairs. Judging by much of the new build that we see, most people clearly still believe that this is where it should stay.

Unfortunately this does not meet with the requirements of either Part P or Part M. In fairness the legislation is hardly clear on the matter.

Part P section 1.6 states that: “Wall-mounted socket outlets, switches and consumer units should be located so that they are easily reachable where this is necessary to comply with Part M. Approved Document M shows ways of complying.”

This seems to be clear enough. Unfortunately, if you then refer to Part M, there is no overt mention of consumer units, hence the muddied waters. Here you need to dig deep, and it is probably not a surprise that few bother. If you want to comply with the Building Regulations, however, you must.

Section 8 of Approved Document M, which applies to new dwellings, includes the objective of “assisting people whose reach is limited to use the dwelling more easily, by locating wall-mounted switches, socket outlets and other equipment at suitable heights, so that they are easily reachable for use.”

The NICEIC indicates that “other equipment” includes circuit breakers and therefore the consumer units that they are sited in.

Suitable heights for switches and socket outlets are between 0·45 m and 1·2 m from the finished floor level.

However, a more limited height range of 0·75 m to 1·2 m above finished floor level is recommended for simple push button controls, isolator switches and circuit breakers that require limited dexterity. So the maximum height should be 1200 mm to the centre of the switches and controls. If you are using a multi-row enclosure, then all the devices must be within these height ranges.

In fairness, this clearly complies with the spirit of Part M. Consumer units should be accessible so that people can operate circuit breakers in an emergency and for the routine testing and resetting of RCDs. This means that they must be in reach as defined by Part M.

“It is time for the industry to be aware of all Part M requirements”

In addition, they should not be installed in a lockable cupboard – which is, after all, hardly accessible. Any consumer unit that complies with BS EN 60439-3 and has switches that are located behind a cover is fit for purpose.

The NICEIC also makes the point that consumer units must be accessible for safe working. Regulation 15 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states that to avoid injury “…adequate working space, adequate means of access and adequate lighting shall be provided at all electrical equipment on which, or near which, work is being done in circumstances which may give rise to danger.”

For a consumer unit, such work should include the measurement of maximum prospective fault current, a test that may give rise to danger. It should therefore be mounted at a height that allows adequate access for such work to be carried out safely.

Mounting a consumer unit at a suitable height for inspection, testing and maintenance is also necessary for compliance with the accessibility requirements of Regulations 131-12-01 and 513-01-01 of BS 7671.

You will note that this article only refers to new build. You do not need to move a consumer unit to Part M heights for a house rewire or for building an extension. It might, however, be considered best practice to do so.

One final point, if a consumer units is fitted in the garage, then it must also comply with Part P and Part M. You should choose a position where it’s unlikely to be damaged. Back walls are generally better than side walls.

It is time for the industry to be aware of all Part M requirements and to at least draw the main contractor’s attention to its legal obligations. The fact that this might cause some builders inconvenience is not an argument.

Arguments about aesthetics are not a barrier to complying with the regulations. Indeed, many boards have modern aesthetic designs. If a board sticking out of the wall will cause a hazard then install a flush fit unit.

Many of the issues which are currently surrounding Part M are due to be clarified by the end of this year. In the meantime, make sure that you at least draw attention to the regulations.

According to one recent blog, an electrician told the NICEIC inspector who rejected a consumer unit installation to shove Part M. While this may have been satisfying, it carries no legal weight.

Steve Dyson is Hager’s product manager for LV distribution
Lantash said:
A CU in the open, exposed, at a height where kids can fool around with it, furniture can bash into it, and malicious people can trip the lights/computer/fridge/whatever whenever they like? This is just plain barmy.

Oh, yes, it's terrible. isn't it? How dare we make it easier/safer for the elderly or infirm to reset a breaker when the lights have gone out? What were we thinking?

I have seen fuseboards inaccessible in kitchen corner units, behind new stud partitions, bricked up behind 'fashionable' masonry features and at the wedgy end of the cupboard under the stairs. All too often the homeowner doesn't even know where it is... and don't get me started on water stopcocks!

The isolation point for ALL services should be readily accessible without recourse to ladders, crawling, searching or the use of tools. As for kids/malicious people (one and the same in my book!) everybody should be educated as to the use of such control points.
Agree with dingbat on this.......
C.U`s and water stop cocks,should be placed at a more convenient height.
The only thing that guides us electricians on this front,though is the placement of the service tails,fuse and meter.
So as long as the regional DNO`s install their equipment in line with the new regs then we can do our bit.
So as long as the regional DNO`s install their equipment in line with the new regs then we can do our bit.

You can always use longer tails, suitably protected.
You can always use longer tails, suitably protected.

Yes you can but why would you want to move the C.U away from the service fuse and meter that has been installed at a regulatory height?
Or are you saying about older installations?
A point.
If the CU is at hand to the infirm.... Perhaps following a reset they'll then try to change that blown lamp.. Using one of the most dangerous pieces of kit, for the unsteady, an old step ladder or worse a dining chair.
You just cannot cover all the bases...
This is another case of the standards and regulations writer looking at the old and diabled people as being the most important user base.

My Wife is diabled but not bound to a wheel chair so I am lookig at this from both sides and I can honestly say that the height of the wall switches and even the consumer unit which is above her head height have never caused her problems, and any site I have been to with a wheelchair user have had relatively cheap modifications to lower switches etc for the home owner.

If sockets and light switches are to be made at a height of maximum 1.2 metres, me being 6'3" am now being penalised for my height. Whe nthe switches were standard height of , now they can be placed a MAXIMUM of 1.2 metres, I am getting to the stage where I am now going to, in some instances, bending down to turn off a light?!

You can never cater for all groups, so changing the standard way of doing things, so that people who are based "lower to the ground" means taller people are now being exposed to back problems.

Also on this, I was visiting a site where we have an engineer working on a circuit within a new build, the CU had no lock on the cover because this would "limit access" in my mind anyone could have walked in and turned the breaker back on in the board and my Engineer would have been fried. Where is the protection for the installer with this new system, I have since advised fitting a lock to all units but not locking them unless we are on site, this is just for pure safety reasons.

P.S. When I visited the new build the other day where the light switches were placed at 80cm above floor height to comply with building regs. I have to bend to turn the light off and at the moment I have a bad back so I have to bend at the knee, I looked like I was curtseying to the wall?!
The problem with all these stipulations about minimum and maximum heights is that what best suits one person does not automatically best suit another, and that includes the whole range of people who could fit into the disabled category. Depending upon the specific disability, one disabled person might well prefer things low down while another prefers them higher up.

But of course, the heights mentioned in relation to Part M are only suggested ways of complying with the very vague requirement of Part M itself, viz.:

M1 . Reasonable provision shall be made for people to:

(a) gain access to; and

(b) use

the building and its facilities.

If the person who is going to be using the building's facilities happens to find that having sockets, switches, or anything else mounted higher or lower than the guidelines in the Approved Document is better for him, then I would argue that putting the accessories at the height he wants is making reasonable provision, since he is the occupant who will be using the facilities of the building the most.

That's why the government should keep its nose out of such things entirely. Why shouldn't the person who is having a home built for himself have the accessories at whatever height he feels is most convenient to suit his own limitations or disability?

On the specific topic of consumer units, I would say that the wording of Part M itself could actually be taken in such as way as to make them outside its scope anyway:

The requirements of this part do not apply to:


(b) any part of a building which is used solely to enable the building or any service or fitting in the building to be inspected, repaired or maintained.

Unless you're using circuit breakers on the board for functional switching or something similar, I think there could be a strong argument made for saying that the individual breakers, main switch etc. are there to provide for the repair and maintenance of the electrical service of the building.

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