Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Today, peak Australian electrical industry body, the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), continued its call on state electrical regulators across Australia to introduce stronger safety measures to help keep Australians safe, especially in older homes.

NECA represents over 5,000 electrical contracting businesses across Australia and has been leading the call to make the installation of residual current devices (RCDs) or safety switches as they are commonly known mandatory in all homes and introduce other safety initiatives including periodic electrical inspections.

NECA’s chief executive officer, Mr James Tinslay, said that although the number of deaths and injuries caused by electricity are reducing, the aging housing stock in Australia is a concern to the electrical industry.

“In the last 30 years, Australia has experienced a steady decline in the number of deaths linked to electricity and this trend can be attributed to everything from better education, improved safety procedures across some industries, better designed equipment and the strengthening of regulations,” Mr Tinslay said.

“However, it is no secret that many older homes in Australia that were built in the early 1900s or during the boom after World War II have original wiring that can be dangerous and many do not have safety switches installed to help protect the residents.”

“These original electrical installations are now powering a whole house full of modern appliances and old wiring can be dangerous if it deteriorates.”

Since 1991 the Australian Wiring Rules have required RCDs to be mandatory in all new installations and when undertaking significant renovations. The requirement has been built upon by some state electrical regulators and this has enabled additional protection. However, many older homes across Australia are not captured by these regulations.

The Australian Wiring Rules recognises that RCDs are intended to augment other measures of basic protection and the introduction of electrical inspections can address the need for basic protection. The next step for state governments is introducing over time a requirement for mandatory periodic inspections of premises when certain events take place or at fixed time intervals. The two can work together and there are many options for state regulators to introduce electrical inspections.

“For example, if a house has not had a safety inspection by an electrician in ten years it could be regulated that such an inspection is required when the house is sold, leased or where there is a change of tenant. Invariably, bank or mortgage providers require a pest and building inspection, but not a report on the electrical installation which can have more fatal implications or cause damage to the property from fire,” Mr Tinslay said.

It could also be very costly to a potential home buyer if the wiring needed replacing and this wasn’t discovered before the purchase. A periodic electrical inspection would not inspect every metre of cable as clearly this would be impractical.

“A simple inspection by a licensed electrician could identify whether a home is at risk by having dangerous old wiring or the omission of a safety switch. A regime to inspect homes will detect any serious electrical risks and help keep Australians safe.”

“An inspection would check the condition of the switchboard, identify illegal wiring, check the positioning of insulation, look out for exposed parts of power outlets and inspect the condition of some of the wiring itself.”

Regulations to have safety switches installed at the time of sale or lease already exist in Western Australia and in Queensland and it is time the other states introduced these simple measures to help back-capture many of the older homes in Australia and protect those who are also renting homes.

“Having it mandated in each state in Australia so the installation of safety switches is compulsory in all homes and not just new homes will help to reduce the number of electrocutions in Australia. The Western Australian and Queensland governments have made this sensible decision and it is time the other states followed suit,” Mr Tinslay said.

“Australian governments have improved legislation and regulations for other life saving measures like seatbelts, pool fences and helmets. It is now time they do the same for electrical safety and introduce periodic electrical inspections and a regime to back-capture older homes.”


Contact Profile

National Electrical and Communications Association - NECA

NECA is the peak industry body representing the interests of electrical and communications contractors Australia-wide.
Dominic Feenan - Media and Communications Manager
P: 02 9439 8523
M: 0457 767 328


electrical safety NECA RCD safety switch national electrical communications association government state



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