With the continuous transition of the energy system there has been a notable increase in large scale solar farms on South Australia in the recent past.
Two issues are of note:
- The technology disruption is based on equipment that has traditionally been widely available to electrical tradespersons for small-scale residential solar systems, albeit now combined to create generators of larger scale.
- The installation of the equipment requires some seemingly repetitive tasks.
The combination of the above factors has led to questions how the work can be done in an efficient manner whilst maintaining high safety standards to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders.
This document provides clarification on the requirements of the legislation to achieve the above-mentioned objective.
Who we are
The Office of the Technical Regulator (OTR) is responsible in South Australia for the electrical, gas and plumbing safety and technical regulation of these industries in South Australia. The OTR administers the Electricity Act 1996.
Consumer and Business Services (CBS), a division of the South Australian Government’s Attorney-General’s Department, provides a diverse range of services, including licensing for electrical and other trades and businesses. CBS is responsible for the requirements of the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Electricians Act 1995.
SafeWork SA administers South Australia’s Work Health and Safety Act 2012. It does this by providing information, advice and support as well as compliance and enforcement activities to ensure safe, fair, productive working lives at the workplace.
Electrical or other work on solar farms is covered by the above-mentioned legislation, with certain interdependencies. For clarification, the three agencies are providing the following explanations on requirements for work on solar farms.
Requirements of the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Electricians Act 1995
In general terms, a person doing electrical work must be licenced accordingly.
Section 6 of the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Electricians Act 1995 requires that a person must not perform electrical work except as authorized by a licence.
- Electrical work means the installation, alteration, repair or maintenance of an electrical installation;
- Electrical installation means the whole or part of any system or equipment wherever situated intended for the conveyance, control, measurement or use of electricity supplied or intended to be supplied by a person or body that supplies electricity to the public at a voltage above extra low voltage as defined in Australian Standard AS3000 Wiring Rules;
In general, the requirement to hold a licence under this legislation applies to electrical work on solar farms.
There are however exemptions, as defined by regulation 4 of the Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Electricians Regulations 2010, which states that a person carrying out electrical work relating to electricity infrastructure owned or operated by an electricity entity that is required to have a safety and technical management plan by condition of licence, or by the regulations, under the Electricity Act 1996 is exempt from the requirement to be registered as an electrical worker.
A licence may thus not be needed if the following criteria apply:
- The solar farm is classified as “electrical infrastructure” under the Electricity Act 1996; and
- The solar farm is operated by a company holding a generation licence from the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA); and
- The company has an up-to-date safety plan approved by the OTR, which describes safe working procedures, safety systems and other matters;
A solar farm under construction that does NOT meet the above requirements must have all electrical work done by licenced electricians.
Requirements of the Electricity Act 1996
If a particular solar farm meets the above-mentioned criteria, then persons undertaking electrical work may be exempted from the requirement to hold a licence, provided that the entity operating the solar farm has supplied evidence to the Office of the Technical Regulator to demonstrate how they will maintain the safety of persons doing the work.
Specifically, with regards to the competency of workers and contractors the entity must provide a plan that deals with the implementation and conduct of safety measures and training programs for the purpose of:
- reducing the risk of death or injury, or damage to property, arising out of the operation of electricity infrastructure; and
- ensuring that employees, workers and contractors performing work in respect of electricity infrastructure are competent and properly trained, perform their work safely and are provided with a safe system of work;
The plan must obtain approval by the Office of the Technical Regulator prior to any unlicensed person undertaking any electrical work.
Further information on the safety plan can be found here.
Requirements of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012
This act requires that a person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers engaged, or caused to be engaged by the person; and workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the person.
Moreover, the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 specify that a person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must manage risks to health and safety associated with electrical risks at the workplace. This may include electrical risks associated with the design, construction, installation, protection, maintenance and testing of electrical equipment and electrical installations at a workplace.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2012 does not however specify licence requirements as this obligation is covered by the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Electricians Act 1995.
The South Australian Government is monitoring developments within the electricity industry and will consider changes to the current requirements if warranted.
For more information on working on solar farms, please contact the agencies as below: