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Temporary builders’ switchboards installed in a permanent position on residential building sites

ESV has become aware of a trend of non-compliant underground consumer’s mains being installed on residential construction sites.

The Electricity Safety (General) Regulations require underground consumer’s mains installed on a construction site to be mechanically protected up to and into the switchboard/metering enclosure.

The Regulations require that any underground consumer’s mains installed on a construction site that exit the ground to enter into a switchboard/metering enclosure must:

  1. be double insulated up to the first protective device within the switchboard or metering enclosure; and
  2. be enclosed in compliant heavy duty non-metallic conduit from the point they exit the ground up to the point at which they enter the switchboard/metering enclosure; and
  3. be provided with additional mechanical protection from the point they exit the ground up to within 100mm of the switchboard/metering enclosure that is constructed of:
    1. a galvanized steel tube with a wall thickness of at least 3.2mm; or
    2. a 1.6mm thick or greater, sheet steel cover with an unsupported width not exceeding 100 mm.

These are examples of non-compliant installations on residential construction sites:

Electricity compliance example graphic

Background

In 2019 in response to a spate of dangerously unsafe temporary builders’ switchboards installed in a permanent position (often referred to as a “temp in perm”) that were identified on numerous residential building sites across Victoria, new rules were inserted into the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations. ESV audits have identified that three years on, RECs, electrical workers and licensed electrical inspectors (LEI) still do not have a good understanding of these requirements.

Relevant rules

Regulation 214 of the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations

This rule requires that:

  1. any switchboard or metering enclosure (other than a free-standing enclosure) installed on a construction or demolition site must be securely attached to a pole, post, wall or other structure that is rigid and secure; and
  2. any free-standing switchboard or metering enclosure installed on a construction or demolition site must be securely fixed in place; and
  3. any underground consumer’s mains that enter into a switchboard or metering enclosure installed on a construction or demolition site must:
    1. from the point at which it exits the ground up to the point at which it enters the enclosure, be enclosed in compliant heavy duty non-metallic conduit; and
    2. from the point at which it exits the ground up to a point that is within 100 millimetres of the point at which it enters the enclosure, be provided with additional mechanical protection that is of a construction that meets the mechanical protection classification of WSX3 as specified in Appendix F of AS/NZS 3013.

Australian standards

The Australian standard AS/NZS 3013:2005 sets out the classification of the fire and mechanical performance of wiring system (‘WS’) elements.

Appendix F of AS/NZS 3013 requires, to achieve a WSX3 classification, a wiring system such as consumer’s mains installed in compliant heavy duty non-metallic conduit must have:

  1. an additional 1.6mm thick sheet steel coverage with an unsupported width not greater than 100mm; or
  2. be enclosed by a galvanized medium steel tube with a wall thickness of at least 3.2mm as specified in table 2.2 of AS 1074.

The Australian standard AS 1074:1989 specifies requirements for steel tubes and tubulars.

The minimum dimensions of medium steel tube to meet WSX3 classification are:

Nominal size (DN) of the steel tube Wall thickness (mm) of the steel tube
32 – 40 3.2
50 – 65 3.6
80 4.0
100 4.5

Other methods of compliance with WSX3 classification can include using wiring enclosures or wiring systems tested to and passing the requirements of AS/NZS 3013, or by using very heavy duty conduit complying with AS/NZS 2053.

Other considerations

Three elements of the rules and regulations need to be taken into account by the REC, electrical worker and licensed electrical inspector (LEI) when installing and inspecting a switchboard on a residential building site:

  1. The construction of the consumer’s mains and that the switchboard/metering enclosure is securely attached to a pole, post, wall or other structure;
  2. The construction of underground consumer’s mains within a structure; and
  3. The protection of wiring systems near building surfaces (the 50mm rule).

The requirement for consumer’s mains and switchboard/metering enclosure on construction and demolition sites are called up at regulation 214 of the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019.

The requirement for the construction of underground consumer’s mains within a structure are set out at regulation 224 of the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019.

The requirement in regards to protection of wiring systems near building surfaces are covered in the following clauses of AS/NZS 3000:2018, the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules:

  • clause 3.9.4, Protection against mechanical damage,
  • clause 3.9.4.2 Wiring systems near building surface,;
  • clause 3.9.4.3.2 Protection required, and
  • clause 3.9.4.4 Protection methods.

Legislation

Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019

The Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019 can be downloaded free of charge at:

Other relevant legislation

The Electricity Safety Act 1998 can be downloaded free of charge at:

This Act contains, in section 3, definitions relevant to the Electricity Safety (General) Regulations.

Who we are

We are Victoria’s safety regulator for electricity, gas and pipelines.

Our role is to ensure that Victorian gas and electricity industries are safe and meet community expectations. We are also responsible for licensing and registering electricians, and educating the community about energy safety.

More information is available on the Energy Safe Victoria website: www.esv.vic.gov.au

Controlled document

The currency and accuracy of this Electrical Information Sheet cannot be guaranteed once printed or saved to a storage device. If in doubt, please check the ESV website for the current version.

Electrical Information Sheet No.1 – Temporary builders’ switchboards installed in a permanent position (“temp in perm”) on residential building sites.

Expiry: 06/24 Issued: 06/22 Supersedes: N/A