Electrical safety and the model OH & S regulations
In January 2012, the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) world as we knew it changed in Australia with the introduction of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and model Work Health and Safety Regulations. Designed to achieve harmonisation of WHS laws around Australia, this legislation was designed to replace State specific OHS legislation. This was a welcome change for anyone trying to run a business across State borders, but questions were being asked as to whether it really changed anything, as some States continue to have over-riding state specific Acts.
The new Act made many improvements on the existing State Acts. It is clearer and uses plain English where possible, and provides simple definitions for the vast majority of us that do not hold a Law degree. There is a huge emphasis on consultation between employers and employees, and in some cases this need for consultation will extend to contractors, sub-contractors, occupiers of workplaces, suppliers, franchisees or even customers.
The new Act also made it very clear that all involved in doing or contributing to work have a duty of care to those affected by what they do at work. That means officers or persons conducting a business or undertaking, workers within a business, contractors, volunteers, visitors and customers all have a duty of care to each other to ensure their actions are safe.
Of particular interest to the electrical safety industry is the fact that testing and tagging regulations are now documented for all States. In some states there has been no documented test and tag legislation to date so this will provide some much needed clarity for business.
The regulations state that all equipment used in a hostile operating environment must be tested and tagged. The definition of a hostile environment is much the same as the current NSW legislation, and business in NSW will therefore not notice much of a change in this area of the new Regulations.
All items located in a non-hostile environment do not need to be tested and tagged, however this does not mean that all items in an office for example do not need to be tested! There are some areas of an office environment that are hostile, and many dangerous items brought in to non-hostile areas by unsuspecting employees. Should employers choose not to test and tag all items in accordance with AS/NZS 3760, then we believe a thorough risk assessment should be completed at a minimum of every 5 years on all non-hostile areas to ensure electrical safety.
4.7.9 Testing of electrical equipment used in a hostile operating environment
(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that electrical equipment at a workplace is regularly tested by a competent person if the electrical equipment is:
(a) supplied with electricity through an electrical socket outlet; and
(b) used either:
(i) in construction work; or
(ii) in an environment in which the normal use of electrical equipment exposes the equipment to operating conditions that are likely to result in a reduction in its expected life span, including exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust.
(2) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that a record of any testing carried out under subregulation (1) is kept until the electrical equipment is:
(a) next tested; or
(b) permanently removed from use or disposed of.
(3) A record of testing:
(a) must specify:
(i) the name of the person who carried out the testing; and
(ii) the date of the testing; and
(iii) the nature of the testing; and
(iv) the outcome of the testing; and
(v) the date on which the next testing must be carried out; and
(b) may be in the form of a tag attached to the electrical equipment tested.
4.7.10 Untested electrical equipment not to be used
A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that electrical equipment is not used if the equipment:
(a) is required to be tested under regulation 4.7.9; and
(b) has not been tested.
4.7.11 Unsafe electrical equipment
(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that any unsafe electrical equipment at a workplace:
(a) is disconnected (or isolated) from its electricity supply; and
(b) once disconnected (or isolated):
(i) cannot be reconnected until it is repaired or tested and found to be safe; or:
(iii) is replaced or permanently removed from use.
(2) For the purposes of this regulation, electrical equipment or a component of electrical equipment is unsafe if there are reasonable grounds for believing it to be unsafe.
It is important to note that the test and tag regulations in QLD will not change at all. QLD electrical safety legislation is driven by the QLD Electrical Safety Act, and that Act will take precedence over the model WHS Act.
Of particular interest to all electricians, competent technicians and business owners is the change to RCD legislation. The model WHS regulations state that ALL circuits in a workplace must be protected by RCD. The RCD can either be fixed in the switchboard or as part of the socket. There are many businesses that don't have any RCD's on their premises so compliance with this regulation is going to take some time, and will cost business to implement.
4.7.21 Residual current devices--general requirement
(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that, in relation to each socket outlet at the workplace, the circuit is protected by a residual current device.
(2) In complying with subregulation (1), the person must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the residual current device is incorporated before or as part of the socket.
(3) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that the following electrical equipment at the workplace is protected by a residual current device with a tripping current that does not exceed 30 milliamps if electricity is supplied to the equipment through a socket outlet not exceeding 20 amps:
(a) hand-held electrical equipment;
(b) electrical equipment that is moved while in operation;
(c) electrical equipment that is moved between operations in circumstances that could result in damage to the equipment;
(d) electrical equipment that is used for construction work.
(4) Subregulation (3) does not apply if the supply of electricity to the electrical equipment:
(a) does not exceed 50 volts alternating current; or
(b) is direct current; or
(c) is provided through an isolating transformer that provides at least an equivalent level of protection; or
(d) is provided from a non-earthed socket outlet supplied by a non-earthed portable generator that provides at least an equivalent level of protection.
4.7.22 Testing of residual current devices
(1) A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that residual current devices used at the workplace are tested regularly by a competent person to ensure that the devices are operating effectively.
(2) A person conducting a business or undertaking must replace a residual current device that is not operating effectively.
(3) A person conducting a business or undertaking must keep a record of each testing of a residual current device until the next testing is carried out.