I thought that I would share this article with a brief discussion, because it demonstrates some legal obligations that you may be required to abide by. I will only discuss electrical safety in this instance, but you may have other obligations from a building safety/WHS perspective as well.
As a home owner, landlord or business operator in NSW, you are required to maintain your property in good order. If a fault or damage occurs to wiring, light fittings, power points or light switches (or another electrical component), you are required to repair it (or report it to a landlord).
If you don’t repair the fault, should someone be injured or killed on your property, you could be held legally responsible.
This may apply if there is damage to your wiring, and you decide to leave it because “it doesn’t look too bad”, or that you haven’t maintained or regularly tested your electrical system within your home and someone is injured or killed.
What does this mean.
The Department of Fair Trading list five simple rules for all owners, landlords and business operators to follow.
1. Regular maintenance
You must maintain your property and seek regular inspections from a qualified electrician. Just because your light works (see my recent article), doesn’t mean that it is safe.
Much of our electrical system has become extremely complex. While some safety features like RCD/RCBO (safety switches) can make our property more safe, they also require regular testing.
Symptoms such as safety switches, circuit breakers, or fuses blowing or tripping, indicate that there could be possible problems that need investigating.
Tingling, buzzing or crackling are instances where immediate action is required by the owner/tenant/business operator. See our article on electrocution.
Likewise damage to conduit or cabling also requires immediate action. These can also be areas where someone could be injured or killed.
2. Certificate of Compliance
Whenever new electrical work is carried out, or alterations are made to your electricity system, your electrician is required to supply you with a mandatory compliance certificate (CCEW – Certificate of Compliance Electrical Work).
This is your guarantee that your installation/alteration is compliant with the wiring rules.
We go beyond this and provide you with a written report with test results, further guaranteeing your safety.
See our compliance section.
3. Safety Switches
Safety Switches are correctly known as
RCD – Residual Current Devices, or
RCBO – Residual current Circuit Breaker with Overcurrent protection
A safety switch is designed to detect when appliances become faulty or conditions occur within a circuit where an electrical danger may exist.
They don’t detect all types of faults; they are limited to faults to earth. In other words, someone touches a live part on a piece of equipment, drops an appliance into water, or there is a “leakage” to the earth cable.
They are NOT designed to detect overload conditions, or a short circuit between active and neutral. Your circuit breaker, fuse or RCBO (see definition above) will detect this – your RCD will not.
If you are a landlord in NSW, it is not yet mandatory that you have RCDs installed in your property. It may be in other states of Australia though. If you are a business owner, you are likely required to provide RCD protection on your property – you should check your WHS obligations.
However, it is now mandatory that all alterations and additions are installed on RCD protection.
In order to determine if your RCD/RCBO is working correctly requires an electrician with specialised equipment to carry out tests on each circuit. The testing should determine the trip time in milliseconds on both the 0° and 180° phase. Trip time is required to be within 300ms in both phases (AS/NZS:3017:2007 – clause 220.127.116.11). See my safety switch article for more information.
4. Landlord or agent
If you are renting a property, your landlord or agent has legal obligations to keep their property in safe working order.
If you find an electrical fault within the property you rent, you must report it. Your landlord is obligated to repair it as a matter of urgency. If they do not repair it, you can contact The Department of Fair Trading to seek assistance in resolving this issue.
5. Report electrical accidents
NSW Fair Trading indicates that “by law you must report any electrical accident where medical treatment is required, either by calling your electricity provider or NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20. Employers must also report such accidents to SafeWork NSW.”
Any electrical accident has the potential to cause death. It could also mean that there could be an electrical fault within the property.
Immediate action by the owner may be required to rectify this situation to prevent anyone else being injured.
If you have had an electric shock from an appliance, power point or light fitting (or other electrical component within your home), you may not require medical attention.
I would advise anyone who has had an electric shock to contact “Health Direct“, your doctor/nurse or local hospital, and seek advice on what to do. Electric shocks can cause hidden injuries that may not be immediately evident. A health professional is the best one to advise you.
I hope that this provides some insight into your legal obligations as a home owner, lessor, or PCBU.
Bye for now,
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2018-11-30 – this article was updated to reflect an error with regards to rental properties – apologies for the mistake.
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