Guide to Part M Building Regulations

Part M Building Regulations were implemented on 1st May 2004 in order to help people with a disability to use buildings and the facilities in them. For electricians the focus of Part M Regulations is on the section “Switches, Outlets and Controls”, which applies to lighting and other electrical equipment.

The requirements of Part M aim to help disabled people function more easily at home, at work, and in public places.

Part M, Access to and Use of Buildings

The new requirements apply to:

  • the access and use of new buildings;
  • access to extensions to buildings other than dwellings;
  • sanitary conveniences in extensions to buildings other than dwellings; and
  • sanitary conveniences in dwellings.

Part M Building Regs have been widened to cover existing non–domestic buildings undergoing extension, a material alteration or a material change of use.

Part M encourages general good design practice in recognition of the fact that buildings should be easily accessible to all, including disabled people.

How to comply with Part M Building Regulations

  • Switches, outlets and controls must be easy to operate, visible, free from obstruction, and at an easily accessible height (with some exceptions, for example those set into the floor in open plan offices).
  • The location of switches and controls should have a consistent relationship with doors and corners for additional ease of manipulation.
  • Controls should be easy to locate and user–friendly, so that users can operate them without changing settings by accident.
  • Controls activated by a large push pad, or those which provide a visual contrast with surroundings work well for visually impaired people. However red and green should not be used for “on” and “off” settings, and multiple switches and controls could use text or pictograms to indicate functions and status. The Disabled Living Foundation recommends white switches on a dark background for visually impaired people, in some cases with the switch contrasting with the panel, then the panel contrasting with the wall.
  • Individual switches on panels and on multiple socket outlets should be well separated, or in the form of large touch plates, to avoid accidental selection of the wrong switch by those with limited dexterity or with impaired vision.
  • Wall mounted socket outlets, television and telephone sockets must be located more between 400mm and 1000mm above the floor, preferably towards the lower end of the scale.
  • Switches for permanently wired appliances should be located between 400mm and 1200mm above the floor, unless a particular appliance requires it to be higher.

Part M Building Regulations require that anyone installing electrical equipment should have sound knowledge of Part M and the competence to ensure that work complies with its requirements. Any company or individual carrying out the work is responsible to comply with Part M, and, failure to do so is illegal and could lead to prosecution.

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