6 Crucial Electrical Regulations You Should Know About
Electricity regulations are put in place for one key reason; to protect and save lives. Safety around electricity is something that everyone should practise, whether it’s during the installation of electric wiring or a household appliance, or simply using electricity in our daily lives.
Implementing regulations around electricity typically helps to prevent usage accidents in the home or workplace. When adhered to correctly, they aid in the prevention of electrical injury or a fatal electrocution.
Though electrical regulations are largely similar nationwide, they are actually set by each state and territory. Let’s take a look at six of the most important electrical regulations you should know about.
1. Only a Licensed Electrician Can Perform Electrical Work
Thinking about rewiring your home, or installing a new powerpoint in the bedroom? Best that you down tools and switch off that DIY how-to YouTube video you were planning to use. It is actually against the law across all states and territories of Australia to carry out any electrical work if you are not a licensed electrician.
To use South Australian Government electrical regulations as an example, you are required by law to use a licensed electrical contractor to conduct any work between the point of electrical supply and:
- Your property’s electrical wiring, from your home’s switchboard to the entirety of the building
- Any wiring throughout the building to any electrical appliance
- Any fixed electrical appliances
Due to the nature of their work, electricians put themselves at risk of everything from electric shock to fire, explosion and even toxic gas emissions. It’s why legislation is in place to stop members of the general public from completing their own electrical installations or maintenance work. A licensed electrician, however, has the required training to complete the job and ensure it’s done to strict safety standards.
2. Safety Certificates for Electrical Work
When you have any regulated electrical work done at your home, regulated meaning electrical installations, disconnections, alterations or reconnections, electricians are required by law to provide you with a Certificate of Compliance.
This certificate is your written proof that licensed electrical workers have carried out the work in your home, in accordance with wiring rules adhered to by the electrical industry (AS/NZS3000:2007). It also indicates that the completed work has been tested, and proven safe and effective.
Compliance certificates should be issued in triplicate, with one copy for the customer, one sent to your electricity provider and the last for the relevant state or territory government department.
3. Requirements Around Safe Distance Between Powerpoints and Water
One of the first rules around electrical safety we all learn is that water and electricity do not mix. It makes sense, therefore, that there would be regulations in place as to the minimum distance between installed powerpoints and water fixtures.
While you won’t be able to install the powerpoint yourself – refer back to electrical regulation #1 – knowing these requirements will help you determine where you can have an electrician install a powerpoint for you.
Whether you’re looking to install a power outlet in the bathroom, kitchen or laundry, you’ll discover that each room is divided into safety zones.
The bathroom is split into four zones:
- Zone 0 – essentially the main wet areas of the bathroom, so the interior of your bathtub and shower.
- Zone 1 – depending on what you have installed in your bathroom, this can take one of three different forms:
- Bathtub only – zone 1 encompasses the space from the bathtub rim to a 2.5 metre (m) ceiling height.
- Shower only – zone 1 takes in a horizontal radius of 1.2m taken from the point of your shower connection, as well as a vertical distance of up to 2.5m between the ceiling and shower base.
- Bathtub / shower combination – zone 1 expands on the bathtub only regulations to also include a 1.2m horizontal radius from your shower connection along the length of the wall.
- Zone 2 – expands on zone 1’s horizontal radius by an additional 0.6m and takes in the lower measurement of ceiling height or 2.25m above the floor.
- Zone 3 – encompasses an additional 2.4m from the horizontal radius of zone 2. Vertically it takes in the lower of floor-to-ceiling height or 2.5m above the floor. In most bathrooms, zone 3 will cover the remaining room space beyond zone 2.
In accordance with the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules (AS/NZS3000:2007), it is against regulations, and therefore against the law, to install powerpoints in safety zones 0 or 1. In zone 2, a powerpoint is allowable only if it is either:
- Added to a shaver supply unit, or
- Protected by a Residual Current Device (RCD) with a maximum 30mA fixed rating. It must also be enclosed in a cupboard, such as a vanity cabinet.
Power outlets are permissible in zone 3 areas as long as they are protected by an RCD and are installed at a height greater than 0.3m above the floor.
Kitchens and laundries are also zoned, though their parameters differ slightly from the bathroom.
Like the bathroom, zone 0 encompasses each room’s primary wet areas i.e. containers such as sinks and basins. Zone 2 measurements rely upon the volume of water that zone 0 is capable of holding. If zone 0 holds less than 45 litres of water, zone 2 dimensions measure from 0.4m above the container top and 0.15m from its edges. If the container holds more than 45 litres, zone 2 then expands to 1m above the top and 0.5m from the edges.
4. Safety Switch Installation
One of the most important developments in electrical safety has been the invention of the safety switch. Also known as a Residual Current Device, the safety switch cuts off the supply of power to any powerpoints from which the RCD has detected a leak of current to earth.
The regulations around safety switch installation vary across all states and territories of Australia. The key commonality among them all, though, is that any newly-built home must have RCDs installed to protect all powerpoints. Consult your state or territory government website for specific regulations relevant to you.
5. Powerpoint Installation
We’ve already touched on the regulations around installation of power outlets in rooms where water is frequently used. But there are also important points to consider about general powerpoint installation throughout other rooms of your home as well.
In addition to the already discussed wet area installation regulations, powerpoints must also be in positions where access has not been restricted by fixed structures or equipment. The active wire in any installed powerpoint must also come with an operational switch.
6. Smoke Alarm Installation
Just as there is legislation in each state and territory of Australia around the installation of safety switches, so too are there regulations around the installation of smoke alarms in the home.
The regulations differ slightly between states and territories, but the common thread among them all is that all homes built since 1997 must have at least one hardwired smoke alarm installed by a professional electrician.
For more information about the smoke alarm regulations in your area, visit your state or territory government website.
Helpful State and Territory Resources on Electrical Regulations
Here are some important links to state and territory legislation documents around electrical safety – worth bookmarking when you need information on rules and regulations in your area.
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- New South Wales
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
You can also find some information on the Australia New Zealand wiring rules (AS/NZS 3000:2018) by clicking here.
Electrical Regulations Summary
As we’ve already discussed, each state and territory of Australia has its own specific electrical regulations and rules. While the finer details may vary, for the most part they cover they provide best practice safety regulations for electrical workers and members of the general public around matters such as:
- Who can perform electrical work
- Issuing of compliance certificates
- Safety switch installation
- Smoke alarm installation
- Powerpoint installation
- Minimum safe distance between powerpoints and water fixtures
Electrical regulations are in place, both for homeowners and workers in the electrical industry, to ensure safe practice around electricity. When you apply them, you’re doing what you can to provide optimal electrical safety in and around your home.