ELECTRICAL WORK IS COMPLEX AND CAN BE DANGEROUS – DO THE RIGHT THING!
By Dr Marthinus Smit, Shuttle Lighting
Lighting product certification and regulation ensure that products meet the relevant local, national or international regulatory standards. Globally, electrical products are required to meet strict safety, environmental and performance standards for the simple reason that, without such extensive precautions, they may injure or kill users.
Assets, such as buildings and other possessions, are also at risk but the purpose of the regulations and standards are to protect the consumer and the environment.
In South Africa, the sale and installation of electrical products are governed by a number of acts and regulations.
- The Department of Labour covers the use of products in electrical installations and prescribes the wiring code. They also set out the regulations applicable to domestic, commercial and industrial installations.
- The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) makes and maintains regulations relating to electric equipment in accordance with the Electronic Communications Act. This includes electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) standards for most electrical and electronic equipment and products.
Products that do not meet the standards could interfere with specific broadcasting and essential signalling systems, such as in air traffic control, security communication systems and pacemakers in healthcare applications.
- The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) deals with consumer products and states, under Section 55 (d) regarding consumers’ rights to safe, good-quality goods: “… every consumer has the right to receive goods that … comply with any applicable standards set under the Standards Act, 1993 (Act No. 29 of 1993), or any other public regulation”.
- The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) develops and implements national safety specifications for products that are manufactured in and/or imported to South Africa. Many of the compulsory specifications include ICASA’s EMC standards They will issue either an LOA (Letter of Authority), RCC (Regulatory Compliance Certificate) or in some cases a SP (Sales Permit) for an electrical product. A list of products that are regulated by the NRCS can be found on its website www.nrcs.org.za.
SABS and CE marks
SABS certification, and use of the long-standing and ubiquitous SABS mark became voluntary in 2008, when the NRCS become the national regulator. The SABS mark does not indicate compliance with compulsory regulatory standards in South Africa.
The Conformité Européenne or CE mark is generally a ‘self-certification’ mark which was introduced in the European Economic Area (EEA) to indicate that products conform with relevant EU directives regarding health and safety or environmental protection. The CE marking is regulated by a process of market surveillance and can also found on products sold outside the EEA that have been manufactured to EEA standards.
It should be noted that, as it is a self-certification scheme, even a genuine CE-marked product does not mean the product has been tested by an independent entity, something which is not necessary under this scheme.
The misuse of the CE mark is well known in the EU and elsewhere, notably by unscrupulous manufacturers who, by adding the CE mark to electrical products without justification, deliberately intend to dupe unsuspecting users.
The SABS or CE mark cannot replace an LOA, RCC or SP issued by the National Regulator.
What are the implications if you bypass the NRCS as the manufacturer/importer?
According to the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act, a manufacture/importer of any of the products listed in the table above must ensure their products meet the relevant SANS standards. In addition, they must send test reports and pay a prescribed fee to the National Regulator in order to obtain an LOA or RCC. Failure to do so can result in the recall of the product, the consignment returned to its country of origin; or the consignment or batch of the article concerned be confiscated, destroyed.
What are the implications if you sell products that do not have LOA/RCC/SP?
As above, a person may not sell a product that does not comply with the compulsory specifications for that product. Doing so can result in the recall of the product, the consignment returned to its country of origin; or the consignment or batch of the article concerned be confiscated, destroyed.
What are the implications if you install products’ that do not have LOA’s/RCC’s/SP’s?
Electrical work is complex and can be dangerous. As an electrical contractor, you want to be assured that you are working with safe products that meet South Africa’s safety, performance and environmental standards. By installing products that don’t have the necessary approvals your jobs can become time consuming with call backs from clients, and in the worst case catastrophic to either you, your team or the property owner.
In order to issue a certificate of compliance (CoC) all electrical equipment in the installation must be approved by the relevant regulator. If you install products that are not approved, your CoC is invalid.
What are the implications if an electrical contractor installs products at your property that do not have a LOA/RCC/SP?
If an electrician has installed products that are not approved by the relevant regulator, the certificate of compliance (CoC) they issued is invalid. Without a valid CoC, the insurance on the property could be declared invalid and should an injury or incident occur, the property owner could be held liable.
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