When undertaking any electrical installation work, it is imperative to ensure that the electrical equipment that is being installed and connected within the installation is of a type that is safe and will function in the manner required by the user. Many electrical contractors and licensed electrical inspectors are being confronted by product that is questionable and may have been installed in a manner which is not in the manner intended by the manufacturer.
Photo 1. Incorrect junction box installation. The enclosure housed the distribution company’s electricity meter and the customer distribution switchboard. The fire commenced on the meter panel that was made of chipboard, which is a particleboard that burns easily.
AS/NZS 3000:2007 (Wiring Rules) places requirements onto the installer to ensure that the electrical equipment is selected and installed compliant to Clause 1.7. The intention of this clause is to provide guidance on the selection of the equipment, the installation work practices used and the considerations for damp situations. The general principles are outlined in Clause 1.7.1, which states:
“1.7.1 Essential requirement
Electrical equipment, forming part of an electrical installation, shall be selected and installed to:
(a) operate in a safe and reliable manner in the course of normal operating conditions; and
(b) not cause a danger from electric shock, fire, high temperature or physical injury in the event of reasonably expected conditions of abnormal operation, overload, fault or external influences that may apply in the electrical installation; and
(c) be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.”
The requirements allow a vast variety of electrical equipment to be installed but too often, sometimes due to time bound provisions, shortcuts are taken. The fallout of the shortcuts can be damage to the electrical installation, the property and at times, it has led to personal injury.
Some examples of the inappropriate use that Energy Safe Victoria compliance officers have found are incorrect junction box installations. The junction box if installed correctly would need to be a type with the appropriate IP rating and the cables entering would need to have been installed through an appropriate gland that maintained the IP rating. The excessive removal of the double insulation and the securing of the cables along with the junction box would also be required to ensure that compliance has been achieved to the manufacturer’s requirements.
Photo 2. Incorrect installation of the extra low voltage (ELV) down light
In photo 2, we see the installation of the extra low voltage (ELV) down light, for which we identified the issues with the installation requirements of this equipment in the last edition of the magazine. In this situation the electrical contractor has cut out a section of ceiling truss to install the ELV light, rather than installing the ELV light in the correct location. If the manufacturers provide information as to the correct installation methods and capabilities of the product, then installers and licensed electrical inspectors that undertake the inspections need to ensure that these conditions do not exist.
The other danger to the electrical contractor and the licensed electrical inspector is the vast amount of imported equipment that does not meet the minimum safety requirements to be sold and installed within Australia.
In Victoria, the Electricity Safety (Equipment) Regulations 1999 in Regulation 6 require all electrical equipment to meet the minimum safety standard as AS/NZS 3820:1998 – Essential Safety requirements for low voltage electrical equipment. This requirement is also in existence within the other state and territories of Australia and New Zealand. On the Energy Safe Victoria website we have available the list of prescribed electrical equipment which will allow for anyone to see what items of electrical equipment are deemed to be prescribed and therefore subject to further standards, other than AS/NZS 3820:1998.
In an effort to make the approval of electrical equipment more readily available, Energy Safe Victoria is currently building an on-line electrical equipment approval system. This will allow a company or consultant to lodge an approval application on-line any time of the day and from any location in the world. Currently Energy Safe Victoria has a high number of international companies that are applying for electrical equipment approvals and this will allow for a quicker response and approval process.
The other benefit is that we are developing the ability for the electrical contractor and the licensed electrical inspector to be able to connect on-line and view any new product to see if it has been approved in Australia for installation and connection within the electrical installation. This is a very beneficial process and it is anticipated that it will reduce the number of counterfeit items of electrical equipment that have been identified over the past two years in Australia.