The new rules concerning electrical safety that came into effect on 1 January 2013 will have a major impact on how facilities managers and property owners manage risk, WHS compliance, and the buildings themselves.
According to Haron Robson, new rules which came into effect on 1 January 2013 will have a major impact on how businesses, facilities managers and property owners manage risk, WHS compliance, and the buildings themselves.
The company informs that the changes require the installation of residual current devices (RCDs) on electrical circuits serving ‘hostile’ environments where plug in electrical equipment is used. RCDs, commonly referred to as ‘safety switches’, are electrical safety devices designed to immediately switch off the supply of power when electricity leaking to earth is detected at harmful levels. RCDs offer high levels of personal protection from electric shock, and – when properly installed and maintained – can prevent workplace fatalities.
The new rules seek to improve electrical safety in (and outside) buildings where water or mechanical damage could affect electrical equipment operation, according to Haron Robson. It notes that this includes areas such as laundries, kitchens, bars, washrooms and pool areas, adding that under the WHS legislation, should injuries or deaths occur, non-compliance with the legislation could mean building owners and/or managers are personally liable.
Haron Robson notes that it is important to seek technical advice to correctly assess the scope of upgrades that may be required in each situation. It advises that an action report that identifies the kinds of RCDs appropriate for each workplace should be drawn up, competitive pricing for the work should be obtained, the installation should be managed to ensure compliance with the legislation, and a record of testing must be kept until the RCDs are disposed of.
The company states that it is finding that in many cases it is more cost effective to replace distribution boards than to replace equipment within the existing switchboards. Apart from ageing switchboards, this cost advantage is garnered because further compliance requirements, for example with the Building Code of Australia (BCA), is more easily achieved with the addition of centralised energy monitoring and sub metering, Haron Robson concludes.