THE SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL STANDARDS AND THE ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR
By Chris Colling, ECA(SA) Technical Adviser, KwaZulu-Natal Region
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993 (Act No 85 of 1993), the South African electrician’s work must comply with SANS 10142-1 (Edition 2), which is the most recent legislation applicable to the electrical trade.
This, along with the OHS Act’s regulations such as the Electrical Installation Regulations, Electrical Machinery Regulations, and General Safety Regulations (amongst nine different sets of regulations) ‘lay down the law’ for all electrical installations.
In recent months, I’ve talked to electrical contractors and I’m often asked the same questions about the standards and regulations and how they affect us as contractors and how we can contribute to improve the standards.
Q: Why do we have the Standards?
A: The main purpose of standards and regulations is to ensure the basic safety of electrical installations and the safety of people, animals and property. The standards and regulations define precisely how electrical installations are installed and used.
The standards have two basic components, namely:
These are guidelines on how an installation should be installed. The words ‘may’ or ‘recommended” will indicate this.
For example, subclause 22.214.171.124 states: “The conductive part of an antenna structure (including satellite dish) may be bonded to the installation earthing system by means of a conductor of at least 2.5mm2 copper or equivalent.”
Normative describes what must be done. This is indicated by the word ‘shall’ or ‘compulsory’.
For example, subclause 126.96.36.199 states: “The outer contact of an Edison-screw type lamp holder shall be connected to the neutral conductor.”
Q: To what does SANS 10142-1 apply?
A: The standards apply to a fixed electrical installation, which includes electrical equipment and accessories. It does not apply to the construction and safety of equipment, appliances or accessories. These are covered by other regulations, which are applicable to the manufacture of such equipment.
Q: Why are the standards continually being revised?
A: The standards are constantly updated or amended by the SABS National Committee, comprising of all stakeholders in the industry, with the ECA Technical Committee having representation on this committee.
The aim of amendments is to bring the regulations into line with IEC Standards, and ever-changing technology and, most importantly, to ensure the safety of people, animals and property.
Q: Which Standard are we then to apply?
A: We are required by law (OHS Act) to comply with SANS 10142-1(2017) Ed 2, which was published in March 2017. These Standards supersede all other previous versions.
From time to time, people talk about the Blue, Green or Grey books. These Standards were relevant at the time of issue and are still applicable for ‘old installations’. Therefore, we can’t simply ‘condemn’ installations that, for example, still have open wiring systems, and we cannot refuse to issue a Certificate of Compliance for such an installation.
SANS 10142-1 Edition 2 makes provision for such scenarios, and such installations should comply with the minimum requirement of Clause 5 – Fundamental Requirements – of the Standards and ensure that the installation is ‘reasonably safe’. However, all new alterations to old installations must be in accordance with the latest standards.
- Do you and I have a say in any changes to the Standard?
- Yes, we can influence ‘the powers that be’ to a degree. The ECA has a Technical Committee that looks into and discusses all the aspects of any amendment that may be suggested. Suggested changes should be submitted to the Regional Technical Committee, which will consider and debate the issue and, if agreed, escalate it to the National Committee. This committee will do the same and, if appropriate, escalate it to the SABS Workgroup. Submissions should be specific, with reference to the relevant subclause, show the current wording and then the proposed solution, and also include sound motivation. ECA(SA) members are kept informed of any imminent changes in legislation and may submit suggestions, which are submitted to the ECA(SA) Technical Committee for discussion. Suggestions are judged on merit and if they’re found to be relevant, they are put to the ECA(SA) National Technical Committee.
Amendments are made when a need is identified, such as a safety concern that has arisen or to eliminate misinterpretation of the Standard. Once a Standard has been passed, we are obliged by law to obey that regulation, even if we disagree and question the reasoning behind the amendments.
Remember that SANS 10142-1 Ed 2 is a ‘living document’ and will constantly be amended as and when the need arises.
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