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Compliance and enforcement policy
The Office of the Technical Regulator is responsible for the administration of the safety and technical provisions of the Electricity Act 1996, the Gas Act 1997, the Energy Products (Safety and Efficiency) Act 2000 and the Water Industry Act 2012. These acts ensure the safety of the South Australian community, particularly energy and water consumers and workers, and promote energy efficiency and reliable supplies.
The Electricity Act 1996, the Gas Act 1997 and the Water Industry Act 2012 impose safety and technical obligations on:
- the owners and operators of electrical and gas installations (consumer premises)
- the owners and operators of electricity and gas infrastructure (the facilities operated by the electricity and gas supply industries that deliver electricity or gas to consumers' installations)
- electricians and gas fitters in relation to work carried out on consumers' installations
- workers in the energy industry and other workers who work on or near powerlines and other infrastructure
- occupiers of land and members of the public to prevent damage to infrastructure and to ensure the security of energy supply
- owners of water and sewerage infrastructure (water entities).
The electricity and gas acts also require traders who sell electrical and gas appliances to:
- ensure electrical and gas appliances meet applicable safety standards and are correctly labelled to demonstrate their compliance
- ensure compliance with minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for electrical appliances thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and consumer energy costs
- ensure appropriate labelling for energy efficiency ratings on electrical appliances.
To ensure and promote compliance with requirements set out in the relevant legislation, the Office of the Technical Regulator conducts a range of activities.
Keeping gas and electrical workers informed
Workers and contractors in the electricity and gas industries are regularly provided with information on a variety of issues affecting their industries and workplaces.
Current information on safety, technical and general industry issues is available in the Electrical, gas, water and plumbing safety and technical regulation area of this site.
Technical information for electricians and gas fitters, as well as updates on new regulations and standards, is regularly published to ensure that workers and contractors are aware of the latest changes in regulations and standards.
Roadshows, technical sessions and workshops conducted in metropolitan and regional areas of South Australia allow gas, electricity and plumbing workers to engage directly with the OTR and receive up to date information on a range of topics including regulatory changes and technical solutions to common problems in their industry.
As well as regularly publishing safety advice on this site, the Office of the Technical Regulator publishes the Regulation Roundup newsletter and sends it to all licensed electrical and gas workers and contractors, as well as other industry partners, every six months.
Auditing electrical and gas installations, workers and contractors
Electrical and gas installations, workers and contractors are audited regularly to ensure safety and technical requirements are met.
For more information on audits see:
- Auditing electrical installations, workers and contractors
- Auditing gas installations, workers and contractors
Responding to complaints
The Office of the Technical Regulator investigates complaints about, or instances of, unsafe or uncertified electrical and gas appliances, damage to property, and personal injuries and other incidents arising from electricity and gas. It also investigates non-compliance of:
- electrical and gas fitting work on installations
- infrastructure operators regarding their technical and safety obligations - eg condition of infrastructure, vegetation clearance near powerlines
- members of the public in relation to legal safety requirements - eg working and building near powerlines
- installation owners and operators with respect to their legal safety and technical obligations - eg unsafe workplace installations.
Working closely with industry, regulators and contractors
The Office of the Technical Regulator recognises the importance of good working relationships with the industry, interstate regulators and other government and non-government organisations in achieving its aims of ensuring safety and compliance.
The Office of the Technical Regulator contributes to and benefits from its relationship with:
- other regulatory agencies such as the Consumer and Business Services, SafeWork SA and interstate regulators
- emergency services including the Country Fire Service (CFS) and Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) and SA Police
- employee and employer associations in the electrical and gas industries especially through the technical advisory committees established under the Electricity Act 1996 and the Gas Act 1997
- the electricity and gas supply industries through the technical advisory committees
- standards development organisations particularly Standards Australia - the Office of the Technical Regulator is a member of a number of committees that are tasked with developing and improving standards with which compliance is mandatory.
The main objective of enforcement is to prevent repeated breaches of legislation where a breach has already occurred. The Office of the Technical Regulator has the authority to enforce the obligations set out in the Electricity Act 1996, the Gas Act 1997 and the Energy Products (Safety and Efficiency) Act 2000.
Directions to disconnect supply and recall products
In the event that an electrical or gas infrastructure or an installation does not comply with relevant safety and technical requirements, the Office of the Technical Regulator may issue directions to disconnect electricity or gas supply to the installation and to repair or replace the non-compliant infrastructure or infrastructure. Failure to follow these directions is an offence.
Where practical, the Office of the Technical Regulator consults with the person to whom the direction is to be given before issuing the direction.
Sale or use of unsafe electrical and gas products may be prohibited by the Office of the Technical Regulator under the requirements of the Gas Act 1997 and the Energy Products (Safety and Efficiency) Act 2000. In these cases, traders (manufacturers and& distributors) are directed to recall and/or stop the sale of these products.
Where practical, the Office of the Technical Regulator consults with the trader regarding the issue before prohibiting the sale of an item.
Failure to meet obligations set out in the relevant South Australian legislation may result in the Office of the Technical Regulator using a number of enforcement options.
An apparent non-compliance that is not sufficiently serious for formal regulatory response is addressed with an oral warning.
For minor instances of non-compliant conduct, a written warning is issued to the person or entity committing the offence and a record of the letter is kept on file.
The records of warning letters are kept for future reference should the person or entity commit further breaches.
For offences that are expiable under the law, an expiation fee may be imposed. An expiation is set much lower than the maximum penalty that could be imposed by a court in the event of a successful prosecution. A person who receives an expiation notice may choose to pay the fee or elect to be prosecuted in court. Records of expiation notices are kept for future reference should further offences be committed.
Requirement to enter into an assurance and prosecution
For serious offences where warnings or expiation notices are inappropriate, the Office of the Technical Regulator will consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute the alleged offender or require them to enter into an assurance.
Entering into an assurance may require the alleged offender to publish an advertisement relating to the breach and pay compensation to those who have suffered loss or damage as a result of it.
Selecting appropriate enforcement options
Although the main objective of enforcement is to prevent further offences by deterring both the offender and others, there are other factors that are considered in determining what enforcement measures to take. Some of these are:
- the seriousness of the breach in terms of consequences that have resulted or may result from it - breaches range from minor technical breaches to breaches that have caused or could cause death, serious injury or serious property damage.
- the seriousness of the breach in terms of the blameworthiness of the alleged offender in terms of whether they were knowingly in breach of a legal requirement
- the history of enforcement action taken against the alleged offender
- the seriousness of the breach in terms of the maximum penalty fixed by the parliament
- the likelihood that the alleged offender will re-offend
- how meaningful an enforcement option is from the viewpoint of the victim or the public - the Office of the Technical Regulator may require the alleged offender to enter into an assurance rather than choosing to prosecute in court.
- the resources available to the Office of the Technical Regulator - prosecuting complex cases may strain resources to a level that may affect other compliance activities that are important to public safety
- whether there are compassionate grounds for not choosing more serious enforcement options.
Contact the Office of the Technical Regulator.