New EM Regs under authority of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, section 43, came into effect in July 2011. The new EM Regs place more emphasis on potential effects of electrical power, as well as other forms of energy, on hazardous, explosive or flammable substances, notably in confined spaces.
Among the aims of the EM Regs are to enforce application of hazard identification and risk assessment procedures, and relevant management of exposure of workers at high risk locations at workplaces.
OHS Act also under review
SA OHS Act Driven Machinery Regulations 2012, Electrical Machinery Regulations 2011, and Construction Regulations 2012 are undergoing various amendments. The OHS Act is due for review during 2012, and may change in 2013. Various OHS Act Regulations cover all machines and types of plant.
Machines and installations not covered in Driven Machinery Regs or Electrical Machinery Regs are covered in other regulations.
In OHS Act section 1, machines are ‘any article or combination of articles intended for developing, receiving, storing, containing, confining, transforming, transmitting, transferring, or controlling any form of energy’.
Machines in legal terms therefore include hydraulic systems, water towers, power lines, electrical pylons, electric fences, conductors, or insulators. Machines may also fall within the scope of the Driven Machinery Regulations or General Machinery Regulations.
EM Regs focus on energy and hazards
The scope of the EM Regs includes energy installations, distribution networks, electrical fences, as well as energy sources near confined spaces, defined as places where a hazardous substance may accumulate, or an oxygen deficient atmosphere may occur, including a chamber, tunnel, pipe, pit, sewer, container, valve, pump, sump, similar construction, or equipment, machinery or object in which a dangerous liquid or dangerous concentration of gas, vapour, dust or fumes may be present.
EM Reg 2 includes designers, manufacturers, installers, sellers, users, employers and suppliers of electrical machinery, as well as electrical power generates, transmitters or distributors, in the scope of the EMR.
Electrical machinery users include persons or organisations who benefit from machinery, such as plant hire companies and contract principals. Machine operators and contractors may not be ‘users’ as defined in EM Reg 2.
Designers are defined in Construction Regulations. Employers include a company, organisation or person who remunerates a person, line manager or person who directs or exercises control over any employee, referred to in OHS Act section 1(2).
‘User’ is amended in the new EM Regs to include ‘employer or user’, therefore owners and line managers are jointly responsible to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation.
EM Reg 5 requires notices or symbolic signs, as in General Safety Regulation, as well as directions [signage of response procedure] in case of fire, and directions [signage], on how to resuscitate a person suffering electric shock.
Reg 6 requires that lighting must be provided, and allows fire extinguishing systems instead of appliances, but requires that either be available where work is in progress.
Reg 6 now allows employers to authorise a person to enter premises housing switchgear or transformers. Previously the user, being Eskom or a municipality, had to issue this authorisation. Work permits issue and receipt are functions of an ‘authorised person’ and ‘responsible person’. Operating Regulations for High Voltage Systems are incorporated in the EM Regulations.
Electrical Machinery Regs require HIRA
EM Reg 9 is added to require hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA), as well as classification of hazardous locations, intending places where hazardous substances may accumulate, or an oxygen deficient atmosphere may occur, including a chamber, tunnel, pipe, pit, sewer, container, valve, pump, sump, similar construction, or equipment, machinery or object in which a dangerous liquid or dangerous concentration of gas, vapour, dust or fumes may be present.
This provision aims at preventing fire, explosion or release of hazardous substances, including dust or vapour, and to facilitate risk management by way of prioritizing high risk locations.
Electrical machinery intended to be used in hazardous locations must have a certificate of manufacture and test, issued by an approved inspection authority (AIA).
Electric machinery in hazardous locations must be visually inspected and tested at least every two years.
Electric fences standardised from Oct 2012
EM Reg 12 requires new electric fences to comply with SANS 60335-2-76, and prohibits design, manufacture, sale, installation, ownership or use of non compliant electric fence systems.
Current systems are exempt, but change of ownership of premises after 1 October 2012 require a certificate, as new electric fences do.
EM Reg 13 requires that a certificate be issued for electric fence construction, repair or alteration, by a registered person, exempting strip grazing electrical fence systems or pet shock systems, however the installer must be competent. EM Reg 14 requires registered persons to apply in writing to the Labour Chief Inspector.
Electrical earthing resistance maximum set
EM Reg 18 now requires earthing resistance to be 0.2 ohms or lower. EM Reg 19 specifies minimum clearances, protection of supports, insulators and fittings.
Minimum clearance above water must be negotiated between land owner and user, such as between farmers and Eskom Distribution. The Labour Inspector could be called on to decide if agreement is not reached.