As Electrical Contractors we get asked this question a lot. People are confused about what their responsibilities are when it comes to safety switches. The short answer is we all are.
- Manufacturers – to ensure the safety switches they produce are safe, reliable and effective.
- Suppliers – to ensure the safety switches they sell are made to Australian Standards of safety.
- Electricians – to ensure safety switches are installed and tested correctly.
- Property Managers/Home Owners – to ensure safety switches are present at their properties and tested regularly.
The risk is real: 15 people are killed and about 300 seriously injured each year in avoidable electrical accidents in homes. Safety switches are the single most effective measure to prevent electrocutions and serious electrical injuries.
What legislation is applicable?
In Queensland, the applicable legislation is the Queensland Electrical Safety Act 2002 and the Queensland Electrical Safety Regulations 2013. The Act describes what individuals are obliged to do, and the Regulations describe how to carry out these obligations.
What is your duty of care?
The main focus of the Electrical Safety Act is that persons conducting a business or undertaking have a duty of care to ensure that their business or undertaking is performed in a way that is electrically safe. This includes ensuring that the workplace is electrically safe for workers.
As part of this, persons conducting a business or undertaking must ensure any work completed on the electrical installation complies with the wiring rules AS/NZS 3000. It is important to note that this might trigger a requirement to install safety switches when modifying older installations.
When are safety switches required?
For residential properties, safety switches have been compulsory since 1992, with stricter requirements regarding their installation to both lighting and power circuits also put in place from 2000.
Some older properties may not have safety switches installed, however this needs to be disclosed by law if selling the property. In most instances safety switches are required to be retrofitted to protect general purpose outlets if not already existing, as well as if you are renting out the property.
The legislation also states that electricians are not to perform electrical works on a domestic electrical installation that does not have a safety switch installed to general purpose socket outlet circuits (unless the work involves installing a new safety switch or otherwise under special circumstances).
Who is effected and how can they be protected?
In Queensland, for persons conducting a business or undertaking (landlords, building owners and business owners), it is important to remember that you have a duty of care to provide electrically safe workplaces which can include the use of safety switches.
Not everybody considers who may be impacted by the lack of safety switches at a property but the list could be endless. Here are a few you may or may not have considered…
- Tenants/guests living at the property
- Visitors to those tenants or guests
- Property Managers or staff conducting regular inspections
- A plumber who attends the site to investigate an issue
- A pool technician who attends the site to service the pool
- Cleaning staff who service the property
- Gardening staff who service the property
Without the presence of safety switches on all circuits these people are put at risk just by switching on a light, plugging in a vacuum cleaner, turning on a pool filter or moving a garden light aside to mulch a garden. You cannot control who comes into contact with electricity at a property but you can ensure the risk is minimised by the installation of safety switches.
Under the Regulations, persons conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that safety switches installed are:
- Compliant to AS/NZS 3760
- Tested regularly to the time frames in AS/NZS 3760
- Not used or immediately withdrawn from use if they fail testing to AS/NZS 3760
When should safety switches be tested?
Of course there is not much point having a safety switch installed at a property if it is not tested regularly to ensure it will work when required. While there may not be written legislation that dictates it is mandatory to test safety switches ALL Electricians are bound by the recently reviewed Electrical Installations “Wiring Rules” also known as the Australian Standards AS/NZ 3000.
The specific standard that outlines the recommendations for how regularly safety switches should be tested as a minimum requirement is known as AS/NZS 3760. The intervals between inspections and tests vary according to the type of environment and/or equipment. However it should be noted, this is the standard that would be used in court should the very worse happen and a person is injured or killed.
How can Sy Dolphin Electrical help?
Although the industry best practise is for a responsible person to conduct a push button test of safety switches every 3 months we understand this does not always happen. For this reason we recommend having a qualified Electrician conduct a test annually to ensure the safety switches are working.
Here’s how we will do this…
- Using specialised equipment we will complete this testing accurately and efficiently with minimum disruption to electrical supply.
- Once tested we will complete a logbook recording the results of this testing and leave it onsite for easy access.
- We will leave a safety switch test sticker in your switchboard that indicates when the testing is next due in case the logbook goes missing.
- Our job management system will monitor this testing as a recurring job so we can advise you when the testing is next due and arrange a time to schedule the job without you having to remember yourself.
Contact us for your safety switch requirements