What is the legislation surrounding electric fence compliance in South Africa? Below we have put together a brief overview of the history and minimum requirements for electric fencing compliance in South Africa.
A brief history of electric fencing compliance
On the 25th of March 2011 Parliament promulgated amendments to Electrical Machinery Regulations contained within the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983 (Act No, 85 of 1983). Some of these amendments relate specifically to the electric fencing industry and are therefore relevant to any seller, installer or end user of an electric fence. Furthermore, some of the SANS Standards referred to in this Act were further amended in 2016. It is prudent to remember that ignorance of the law is no excuse. What is the purpose of this Act? There has been legislation in place since the 1980’s relating to non-lethal electric fencing. However, because electric fences were used mainly on farms and in rural areas, the Act was never really actively applied. With the proliferation of what was formally an agricultural management tool, into the urban environment as a security product, governments around the world have taken note of this phenomena and decided that the legislation pertaining to non-lethal electric fencing needed revising and updating. So the primary purpose of the OHS Act is to protect and ensure the safety of the citizens of South Africa with regards to all electrical systems and appliances. Thus the section of the Act relating to non-lethal electric fencing, to which this ready reference refers, is meant to protect the public from receiving inadvertent and possibly dangerous shocks from badly sited or poorly erected electric fences. A second objective of the Act is to prevent Radio, TV and Telephone interference caused by non-compliant energizers, poor earthing, and any other unacceptable installation practises. Finally the Act and SANS standards protects the consumer by specifying minimum fencing material quality and acceptable erection standards. Applying these standards to a monitored electric fence installation will ensure a safe, effective and trouble free security barrier providing both deterrence and detection, something no other security system can offer.
The Act and Relevant Sans Standards and Codes of Practice Applicable to Non-Lethal Electric Fencing.
The amended legislation covering the safety standard requirements for the manufacture of electric fence energizers and the erection and installation of nonlethal electric fence systems, as well as the laws relevant to sellers, installers, users, and lessors of such systems are to be found in: • The Department of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993 (herein referred to as the Act) under Sections 12 to 16, Electric Fences. These amended regulations can also be found in the Government Regulation Gazette No. 9509 Vol 549, published in Pretoria 25th March 2011 No. 34154 Clause 12 Electric Fences. The Act then refers to a number of SANS Standards, namely: • The South African National Standard – SANS 60335-3-76:2006. This is the same as the International Electro-technical Commission’s IEC 60335-3-76:2006 standard which stipulates the safety specifications that have to be met by manufacturers of electric fence energizers in order to qualify for a test certificate, issued by an internationally accredited test laboratory, certifying that their energizer complies with the standards. In South Africa the only internationally accredited test laboratory for energizers is Test Africa based in Pretoria. (The SABS is not an internationally recognised test laboratory for energizers.) There is a small section in this standard that also relates to fence erection but the following SANS 10222-3-2016 standard over-rules some of these clauses. In order for an energizer to qualify to receive a Certificate of Compliance the testing laboratory will also have tested the energizer to ensure that it complies with SANS 214-1/ CISPIR 14-1 Electromagnetic compatibility and IEC 60335-1:2010+A:2013. • The South African National Standard – SANS 10222-3-2016 Edition 5. Part 3: Electric fences (non-lethal) and manufacture requirements. This is a purely South African standard that specifies the erection and system installation standards and also the minimum quality specifications. Of the materials to be used in the construction of an electric fence. It is important that an installer is well versed in the requirements of this standard. The above are the documents that relate to the erection of non-lethal electric fencing installations and monitoring systems and are the laws and standards that we as a professional installer must abide to at all times.
Important Definitions from the Act and SANS Documents
Bracket: A device, normally fabricated out of metal, with attached fence insulators, that can be attached to a building element with the objective of supporting electric fencing wires. Circuit: An arrangement of conductors for the purpose of conducting electrical energy.
COC: Certificate of Compliance Is a document, issued by a Registered Installer, certifying that the electric fence installation complies with all the requirements of the Act and SANS standards.
Electric Fence: Barrier that includes one or more conductors, insulated from earth, to which electric pulses are applied by an energizer.
Electric Security Fence: Fence used for security purposes that comprises an electric fence installation. Electric Fence
Energizer: Appliance that is intended to deliver voltage impulses periodically to a fence connected to it.
Earth Electrode: Metal structure that is driven into the ground to be used by the energizer and is connected electrically to the output earth terminal of the energizer and that is independent of other earthing arrangements.
Fence Circuit: All conductive parts or components that are connected to an energizer high voltage output terminals.
Fence length: Length measured in meters of the physical electric fence.
Fence live wire length: Length measured in metres of the series (live loop) of the live wire of an electric fence.
Physical barrier: A barrier not less than 1.5m high with one dimension of the opening no greater than 150mm, intended to prevent inadvertent contact with the pulsed conductors of the electric fence.
Public Area: Area within a secure area to which any person can gain legal access without the permission of the land owner or where members of the public are allowed to enter. (i.e. within a housing complex the car park, sports and recreational area.)
Registered person: Is a person registered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993 (Act 85 of 1993) who has satisfied the chief inspector that he/she has sufficient knowledge of the safety standards and that he/she has been furnished with a Certificate of Registration by the chief inspector and that such registration has been entered into the national database.
Sector: A zone can be partitioned into sectors. (See Zone below) Thus a single zone can be partitioned into a number of sectors and one could have a single zone, four sector fence.
Secure area: area where one is not separated from pulsed conductors below 1.5m by a physical barrier.
Urban area: (High density population area) municipal/metropolitan areas or where population would exceed 400 or more persons per square kilometre.
Zone: Length of electric fence powered by a single energizer.
Requirements of the Act In a nutshell
The new OHS Act requires that any non-lethal electric fence erected after 1st October 2012 requires a COC (Certificate of Compliance – see Annexure1 page 12) issued by a Registered Person. (See page 2 for definitions for explanation of COC and Registered person.) This COC is valid indefinitely provided no major structural alterations or modifications are made to the fence. (Replacement of broken insulators or broken wires is allowed – replacement of the energizer or additions to the fence are deemed major structural alterations.) However, the Act goes further and states that any property sold after the 12th October 2012, that has an electric fence around it and which is less than two years old, will now require a COC. before transfer can be registered. This means that properties which had electric fences around them before 1st October 2012, and do not require a COC, will require one if and when the property is sold. As it is not possible to apply laws retrospectively this COC will have to be issued by the Registered Person based on the law applicable at the time of initial fence installation. It will be the responsibility of the person issuing this COC to be satisfied that the fence is indeed safe before issuing this COC and this may require some improvements to the fence. (e.g. improving the earthing, ensuring that the energizer being used is safe, providing adequate lightning protection and warning signs.) The Act stipulates that the seller, importer or manufacturer of an energizer must be able to produce a test certificate issued by an internationally recognised test laboratory certifying that the energizer complies with SANS 10335-76. This Certificate of Compliance is valid for five years. Further the Act requires that an electric fence installation must comply with the SANS 10222-3:2016 standards. South Africa also has certain Compulsory Certification Requirements and those are that all electrical appliances and electronic products that connect to the power grid (220volt) require a mandatory LOA approval. An LOA is a Letter of Authority issued by the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards. An LOA is valid for three years. This Act does not exclude anyone from installing an electric fence themselves provided they meet all the specifications and regulations but the final issuing of a COC has to be done by a Registered Person. (Just as one may wire one’s own house but the final safety approval and issuing of a wiring certificate has to be done by a registered electrician.)