I understand it is a good idea to nominate responsible engineers for particular disciplines but is there anything in English legislation that requires this?
Ultimately I guess the employer is responsible for electrical safety but does the employer need a Responsible Electrical Engineer?
For instance, does a large chemical plant with HV and LV electrical systems have to have a defined Responsible Electrical Engineer? or provided they have competent staff maintaining/installing etc. under the control of a manager is this ok?
I believe under UK law the main requirement tends to lie under health and safety legislation, (other legislation including the EAWR, and Electricity Supply Quality and Continuity Regulations will also apply) which generally requires a responsible person, as for fire safety. This is normally a senior manager, who does not need to be an expert on the subject themself, but will need to have adequate risk assesments carried out to address any risk in so far as is reasonably practicable. (I would expect that such risk assesments can only properly be carried out by an expert in the field) I would suggest taking legal advice, consulting with any licencing authorities, talking to the HSE and taking professional engineering advice.
Responsible is not necessarily the be-all-and-end-all.
The EAWR states
Persons to be competent to prevent danger and injury.
No person shall be engaged in any work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger or, where appropriate, injury, unless he possesses such knowledge or experience, or is under such degree of supervision as may be appropriate having regard to the nature of the work.
To comply with this regulation companies and sites will nominate competent, authorised and senior authorised persons. These need not be direct employees.
The EAWR are talking about people who work on/with electrical systems/equipment and so our competent person could simply be a level 3 qualified engineer or else a person competent by some other means and who may hold no qualifications at all.
It is for the relevant business to decide what competency is required and what makes a person competent, a court will only decide if a particular person is competent or not if there is a breach of law, and in which case 'peers' or 'experts' in the field will generally be brought into court to assist in that decision.
Some businesses will nominate a responsible electrical engineer and it can make good sense but at the same time not then nominate a responsible mechanical engineer or a responsible chemical engineer or a responsible roof work engineer or a responsible compressed air engineer etc.
The biggest law/regulation since 1992 has been 'Risk Assessment' and that requirement runs through most of today's legislation and so when we talk about competency and responsible persons etc., in reality we just need to assess the risks and then put in place the proper control measures and which are required in order to meet statutory requirements and/or else which are proportionate to the risks and whilst considering that in the UK the term 'Reasonably Practicable' is applied in the majority of cases.
Once we start talking about competency it opens up a can of worms and soon gets very complicated and most of this is more down to fear of litigation than the duties imposed by statute law.
I work for a company who have a nominated responsible electrical engineer and whilst he does a reasonable job, and so no disrespect to him, the company is no safer than others I worked for who did not have a nominated responsible electrical engineer but rather did have competent electrical engineers or else a good engineering manager.