...and, if so, can it be located on a different wall?

I was asked today by a kitchen fitter. Here’s my answer…


The first thing to say on the matter is that there is no specific regulation in BS7671:2008:A3 (2015) requiring a cooker switch to be installed at all. Appendix H of the On Site Guide says that a control switch should be supplied and located within two metres of the cooker but not directly above it, however this is just good advice and does not relate back to a specific regulation. The building regulations mention the same, but again this is given as guidance and not as a regulatory requirement. What they both do state is that it should not be mounted so that it is necessary to lean or reach over gas or electric hobs for their operation.

cookerswitch


The wiring regulations do make mention of a ‘Cooker Control Unit Switch’ which, when compliant with BS4177, is considered suitable for isolation, emergency switching and functional switching (table 53.4).

As it can be used for emergency switching, other regulations apply including 537.4.2.4 which says “the means of operation shall be readily accessible at places where danger might occur”, and 537.4.2.7 which says “A device for emergency switching shall be so placed and durably marked so as to be readily identifiable and convenient for the intended use”. Many would argue that a cooker switch would have to be installed to comply with the requirements of Regulation 537.4.2, but then you get Regulation 537.4.2.6 which states “The means of operation shall be capable of latching or being restrained in the OFF position” - and any cooker switch I’ve ever encountered lacks the ability to be directly locked off, so if that regulation doesn’t apply, do those others??

Different people interpret certain regs in different ways because there are some grey areas where specifics aren’t given. Some would say that a cooker switch is unnecessary in the home because the circuit can be isolated from the consumer unit which, although not usually within two metres of the cooker, is still close by in your average abode. Others would insist a cooker switch is mandatory and the installation is not compliant without one. Here’s my take on it…

If you’re having a new kitchen, it is considered best practice for a cooker switch to be installed within two metres of the appliance, but not within 300mm of its hot surface and not directly above. If you need to shut the appliance off for whatever reason, that local source of isolation should be readily available.

Isolating at the consumer unit only disconnects the line wire; neutral remains connected. If your cooker has a neutral to earth fault that is causing the RCD to trip, then the lack of a two-pole cooker switch will leave you requiring disconnection of either the circuit or the appliance in order to reset the RCD. This makes leaving out a switch harder for the installation to comply with Regulation 3.14 (Division of Installation).

Regulation 132.15.201 requires “Effective means [of isolation], suitably placed for ready operation… so that all voltage may be cut off from… all equipment, as may be necessary to prevent or remove danger”. The lack of local isolation switches for any fixed equipment such as a cooker, bathroom fan, shower, etc. would make it harder for the installation to comply with this requirement.

Although it’s not ideal, if you already have a kitchen where no cooker switch has been installed, you don’t need to fork out for one to be put in. It wasn't good practice for the installer to have omitted such, but there is no specific regulation insisting that one is mandatory.

If you have an Electrical Installation Condition Report performed on a property, then the electrical installation should not be failed for the lack of a readily available cooker switch. At worst it should be coded as a C3 (improvement recommended) under item 8.15 of the EICR checklist.

Hiding a cooker switch at the back of a cupboard or above kitchen units makes it not obvious or readily available to locate and isn’t good practice, however if a kitchen is small and lacks available wall space to accommodate a switch then its better to have one than not, even if it is placed out of the way. It is recommended that wiring accessories of any kind should be mounted on the building fabric (i.e. screwed to the wall) and not fixed onto kitchen furniture.

If an existing kitchen is being remodelled and the cooker is moved to a new location, an existing cooker switch should be relocated to within two metres of the appliance, but no closer than 300mm to the cooking surface. That said, if relocating the switch significantly adds to the complexity or costs of the job, and if the kitchen is a standard small domestic affair, and if the existing switch remains clear and accessible in its old position within the new layout, and if it can generally be reached and operated if required, then I personally wouldn’t go to the effort of shifting it. Every job has to be taken on its merits of course, but if I had to bust out someone’s ceiling to re-route the feed to a cooker switch that’s 3m away on the opposite wall of the kitchen to where the new cooker will be located, then I wouldn’t bother so long as it’s got a switch available and it's doing the job where it is. The two metre measurement guideline doesn’t mean that someone standing in front of a cooker can reach the switch in an emergency without moving. I can reach to about 90cm before I have to lean over or move my legs, so a switch located, say, 180cm away wouldn’t afford much difference to a switch located three metres away; you’ve still got to move your legs to get to it. The extra second it takes to get to that three metre switch won’t make much difference, even in an emergency. A cooker switch does not provide automatic disconnection of supply, that’s for your circuit breaker and/or RCD to do, so the switch isn’t there to protect from electric shock. If the emergency is because your chip pan is on fire then that extra second, although not ideal, isn’t going to make much difference.

 

If you’re fitting out a new kitchen and are tempted to cut corners by leaving out a cooker switch, then you should bear in mind the get-out-of-jail regulation which covers the arse for BS7671:

Regulation 134.1.1 states “…The installation of electrical equipment shall take account of manufacturers’ instructions”…

…so if the cooker instruction manual says a double pole isolator must be installed, then not fitting one puts you foul of the regulations by the time you get to page 21 (and it’s a 496 page book!)

The bottom line

If you’re installing a new kitchen, fit one.
If you don’t have one, don’t worry, but plan to install one next time you remodel the kitchen.
If you’re remodelling an existing kitchen that lacks one, fit one where practical, ideally within two metres of the appliance and not closer than 300mm.
If you’re remodelling an existing kitchen that has one and it's already within two metres of the appliance and it's not above the cooking surface, then you're golden, even if it is inside 300mm of the cooking surface.
If you’re remodelling an existing kitchen and the new cooker position won't be within two metres of an existing switch, evaluate the switch position and its accessibility with regard to the new layout, and determine whether it's practical to relocate or better to leave as-is.

Regarding that last point, if you're a kitchen fitter or builder by trade who may come across this kind of situation often, then it may be worthwhile to prepare a risk assessment that you can apply, and if necessary, tweak for each job.


It should be borne in mind that the BS7671 Wiring Regulations are non-statutory so you don't have to comply completely, although it is of course best practice to do so and any non compliance should be detailed on the final certificate and there should be justifiable reasoning for any deviations. As the designer of a kitchen, whether new or remodelled, it's up to you to use your judgement alongside the requirements of the regulations to decide what is going to work best in any given installation. In the event of an incident or accident you may be required to justify your design and/or installation work in a court of law so your best defence is to make it as compliant with BS7671 as possible.


Remember folks, this is just my interpretation of the regulations and others will have their own opinions, but anyone who insists on a particular stance to the original question should be able to back it up. That is to say, if someone is telling you that you have to have your kitchen busted out because the installer omitted a cooker switch or put it in the wrong place, then don't just take their word for it, get them to dig out the specific wiring or building regulation which says it's necessary.