I got asked by a customer this week if I could do the electrical renovation in their new kitchen.
On looking over the switchboard, I found a host of problems. This ultimately meant that the customer needed to upgrade their switchboard and consumer mains (overhead cables from the street, and cables from the house attachment to the switchboard) before any further additions are made.
No previous electrician had checked the cable size, and the capacity of the consumer mains before adding extra load.
On investigation, the consumer mains was a 10mm cable which was only rated at 50A, but the load (according to the Wiring Rules) was 102A – and there was no overload protection.
A fire waiting to happen.
The proposed increase in load was another 15A after the kitchen renovation. This meant the new load was going to be 117A on a 50A rated cable, totally unacceptable.
This family could easily have had a house fire due to overload, if I had not done a thorough investigation before work began as I am required to do.
There are many clauses within the Wiring Rules (AS/NZS 3000:2018) that relate to this, but I also need to refer to the Service and Installation Rules NSW.
Here are some clauses to consider.
Section 8 – Verification:
Clause: 8.2.2 (b) says to check consumer mains size and capacity (amongst other things).
Clause: 8.2.2 (c) says to check protective devices and main switch.
Clause: 8.2.2 (f) (iv) says to check the Equipotential bonding conductors
Before I even began any work, I checked these items, and I knew the installation would fail to comply and was a fire and safety hazard.
With regards to main switches, you can review https://electricgreg.com/2019/02/04/main-switches-and-overloads/ which discusses some of the above.
You can also check out https://electricgreg.com/2018/11/18/earthing/ which looks at earthing.
When looking at consumer mains, there are a number of things that I can refer to. Section C of the Wiring Rules (AS/NZS 3000:2018) provides guidance on how to assess load – what we call maximum demand. Once the load has been determined, it is possible to verify if the consumer mains is adequate or not.
Sometimes it is suitable to restrict load by using an overload device as a main switch (It is mandatory to have overload protection on the consumer mains anyway), but in other instances, the consumer mains needs to be increased or expanded (to three phases).
Clause 1.12.1 of Service and Installation Rules NSW – July 2018 (current standard) states that…
“Where alterations or additions are being carried out on an electrical installation, existing services, consumers mains and service and metering equipment must be replaced (by the customer) to comply with these Rules, where their current carrying capacity is exceeded by the maximum demand determined in accordance with AS/NZS 3000”
This is clear cut, but often overlooked by most electrical contractors.
So what does all of this mean?
I have a duty of care to inspect the property and determine if the installation meets the requirements set out by the Wiring Rules (AS/NZS 3000:2018) and the Service and Installation Rules NSW.
Should the property not meet the criteria that I am required to comply with, I will inform you that you need to make some alterations.
Should you feel that I am just trying to sell you something, ask me to verify what I have said by showing you the relevant clauses in the Wiring Rules, and explain the implications.
What if you disagree?
If you are still insistent that you don’t want me to make those changes, or think that I am just trying to rip you off, then get someone else!
What if I have already done some work, but found problems?
Worst case scenario – and it doesn’t happen very often 🙂
If you have asked me to undertake some work but are then unwilling to make those extra repairs, I will be required to report that to the inspectors when I submit my paperwork to them. This may result in a defect notice being issued against your property.
Ausgrid (Endeavour, or Essential) would then give you an order to have those repairs undertaken. Should you fail to make those repairs, depending on the circumstances, Ausgrid (Endeavor, or Essential) may disconnect the circuit, or if it is bad enough, the electricity from your home until a repair is made.
Once the repairs have been made, Ausgrid (Endeavour, or Essential) will re-inspect the premises to make sure that the repairs comply with the Wiring Rules.
My LEGAL responsibilities – according to Ausgrid’s ES 1 Premises Connection Requirements
Clause 7.1: Defects in Existing Installations – A direct quote
“Electrical contractors who observe existing electrical defects when working on customers’ installations and equipment have a legal duty of care to advise the customer and ensure defects, that are immediately dangerous, are disconnected or made safe as soon as possible. Customers should be advised to have other defects that do not present a safety hazard, rectified within a reasonable period. “
“Where the contractor has reasonable grounds to believe that the customer may not disconnect the defective equipment or installation, or may reconnect it without having suitable repairs performed, the contractor should notify Ausgrid local Network Operations office of the details of the defective installation. “
“Contractors will not be charged inspection fees for defects that are not associated with their work. “
From my point of view
Mostly I will try to find those items before I start work, so that there are no unforeseen problems like this. If I find and point these items out before I start work, you are pre-warned and can discuss them with me. (sometimes I may suspect a problem exists, but not know, and I might put a note on your quote or discuss that on the day)
However you must understand my obligations, and my responsibilities, and recognise that it isn’t always possible to find those faults beforehand. These are called variations.
My insurance only covers me for undertaking legal and compliant work. Should I undertake your addition or alteration without complying with the above clauses, I would be breaking the law.
If I deliberately did non-compliant work and an accident were to happen, or a fire or some other issue were to occur, my insurance may not protect you, your visitors or your property. You would then have to prove fault in my work, and sue me for the damage done to your property.
I might point out that every single contractor operating in NSW is required to comply with Australian Standards. A failure to do so means that their insurance will NOT cover them should an accident occur.
Your legal obligations!
This is where the onus also falls onto you.
Under the Electricity Safety Act, you are legally responsible to maintain the electrical infrastructure within your property. Should a fire, an accident, or a death result from your unwillingness to make required repairs, you could be held liable for that accident, death, or property damage.
Should you deliberately choose NOT to make repairs where required and a death occurs, it is feasible that you could be held legally liable for that death.
If an electrical fire were to occur, it is feasible that your home insurance may be void it it were found that you have failed to make the necessary repairs when informed to do so.
While it is my responsibility to undertake legal and compliant work, you must also undertake necessary repairs to your property when raised.
If you are ever unsure, contact Fair Trading in NSW (different bodies in different states) to further understand both my, and your responsibilities.
Bye for now,
#Renovations #WiringRules #Electrician #Defects #Compliance #Additions #Repairs