Electric fences: What all property owners need to know
By Erika van Zyl, National Communications Manager ECA(SA)
In South Africa, electric fences are a popular security solution for commercial, industrial and domestic installations but many property owners are clueless about the legal requirements for their electric fencing or that such requirements even exist.
While electric fencing may be considered the most effective method of deterring intruders, it must always be remembered that, unlike alarm systems and CCTV cameras, electric fencing is potentially dangerous.
Why the need for new laws for electric fencing?
Although there was legislation for non-lethal electric fences in the 1980s, this was largely unregulated because electric fences were mainly installed on farms. Then, as electric fences became more commonplace in cities and suburbs, it became necessary to update legislation to protect the public. At that time, the ‘loopholes’ in legislation were being exploited by a proliferation of ‘electric fence installers’ as every Tom, Dick and Harry climbed onto the bandwagon and were installing electric fences – and the unwitting public had no way of knowing whether their fences were safe and/or compliant.
On 25 March 2011, the government published amendments to the Electrical Machinery Regulations within the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1983. Some of those amendments related to non-lethal electric fences and were intended to set product and erection standards to protect consumers from potentially dangerous products and inferior installation methods. The new laws also sought to eliminate telephone, television and wireless interference resulting from poorly installed systems and dodgy earthing.
The amendments tightened up the industry and made it compulsory for electric fence installers to undergo tough training before being able to register with the Department of Labour as an Electric Fence System Installer.
The new laws also had far-reaching implications for property owners.
What do the new laws mean for property owners?
The enforcement of these new laws came into effect on 1 October 2012 and placed all the responsibility for compliance on the shoulders of the property owner. Clause 12 of ‘Electric Fences’ in the Electrical Machinery Regulations under the OHS Act compels the user or lessor to ensure that any new, repaired, re-installed, restrung, extended or upgraded or electric fencing installed after 1 October 2012 complies with the installation, material and quality specifications in SANS 10222-3 (including any subsequent amendments); and that the system has a valid Electric Fence System certificate of compliance (EFC), issued by a registered Electric Fence System Installer (EFSI).
Property owners also need to be aware that sellers, importers and manufacturers of electric fence energisers must be able to prove that the energisers comply with SANS 60335-2-76 by producing a certificate issued by an accredited test laboratory, which is recognised by the accreditation authority.
A letter of authority (LOA) from the National Regulator of Compulsory Standards (NRCS) for the energiser is also required and should be produced by the seller, importer or manufacturer.
The ECA(SA) advises property owners to request the energiser certificate from the installer and to keep it with the EFC in a safe place along with any other certificates of compliance.
Validity of the EFC
The EFC is valid indefinitely as long as there haven’t been any major alterations or modifications to the installation – minor repairs such as the repair of broken wires or replacement of bobbins do not require a new EFC; replacement of the energiser would require a new EFC.
The EFCs can be transferred from seller to buyer – but only if no changes have been made to the system after the certificate was issued by a registered EFSI. The original certificate must be given to the buyer on transfer of the property and the new owner must be made aware of his/her legal obligations.
What about electric fences installed before 1October 2012?
Although an EFC is not required for electric fences installed before 1 October 2012, when the property is sold, the property owner will have to get an EFC. The registered person will issue an EFC based on the legislation that was applicable at the time the fence was installed and on condition that the electric fence has adequate earthing, the necessary warning signs, a compliant energiser – and it is safe.
Should an EFSI find that an electric fence is faulty or defective, he/she shall refuse to issue the EFC.
Electric fences installed before 1 October 2012 will also need an EFC when any major repairs or modifications to the system are undertaken.
Who needs an electric fence certificate?
All properties with electric fences must have an EFC – commercial, industrial, business, residential, freehold or sectional title, bodies corporate, home owners’ associations, town houses, complexes, housing estates, business parks; anywhere that the public may gain legal access without permission from the owner.
While sectional title properties don’t require an EFC to effect transfer, body corporates and business entities are legally responsible for the electric fence systems on their properties… And they can be prosecuted if their electric fence is found to be non-compliant, and they could find themselves in a civil court if someone has been injured by their non-compliant fence.
A registered EFSI who installs, alters or extends an electric fence system must ensure that an EFS certificate is issued for that work when it is completed.
Who can install electric fence systems?
Electric fence installations may only be done – and a Certificate of Compliance therefore issued – by a registered Electric Fence System Installer (EFSI), in accordance with the Electrical Machinery Regulations within the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993.
A registered electrician can only install an electric fence system if he/she is also qualified in terms of the electric fence laws and has been registered as an Electric Fence Installer at DoL.
The property owner should confirm that the installer is indeed registered before allowing him/her to install an electric fence system on the property and issue the EFC.
Does my electrical CoC cover the electric fence?
The short answer is ‘no’. The electrical CoC falls under the Electrical Installation Regulations (EIR) within the OHS Act, and the Electric Fence Certificate falls under The Electrical Machinery Regulations in the OHS Act.
The electric fence certificate (EFC) is required in addition to the electrical Certificate of Compliance (CoC) that property owners must have.
When a property with an electric fence is sold, both the electrical CoC and the EFC must be lodged with the conveyancing attorney before transfer can take place
What if I don’t have an electric fence certificate?
An EFC must be produced when requested by an inspector from the Department of Labour.
Without a valid Electric Fence System Certificate of Compliance, property owners, body corporates, business entities and home owner associations become civilly and criminally liable for injuries caused by their electric fence system.
Should an electric fence be found to be non-compliant, the owner will have to have the system upgraded by a registered installer to comply with legislation within a specified period, or the owner will be forced to remove the entire system.
Most importantly, non-compliance has potentially expensive consequences for property owners who submit an insurance claim for a damaged electric fence, stolen household contents, or who find themselves at the wrong end of a personal liability claim and also have criminal charges to face.
If the electric fence system is not compliant and/or doesn’t have an EFC and the fence is damaged, for example, by a falling tree or the energiser is destroyed by lightning, the insurance company may not pay out. This could also be the case if the homeowner has listed the electric fence as a security measure and then submits a claim for items stolen during a burglary. A personal liability claim could also end rather badly if someone – a visitor, employee, a neighbour’s child – is shocked or injured by the fence and the property owner doesn’t have the required EFC.
What does an EFC look like?
The ECA(SA)’s Electric Fence Certificate is a single-page and pale green in colour, and each certificate has its own unique number.
The EFSI may attach other documents to the certificate, such as
- A copy of the installer’s registration document.
- A copy of the energiser’s compliance certificate issued by an accredited test laboratory.
- Any applicable material specifications.
- A detailed drawing of the installation.
- A brochure or document that outlines the property owner’s legal obligations in terms of electric fencing.
- Information for the property owner on maintenance of the electric fence.
What else should the property owner know about electric fencing?
Electric fencing must conform to the Electricity Security Installations Regulations, which means that:
- Regulation 11 of the Electrical Machinery Regulations in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1983 must be fully complied with.
- If angle brackets will extend into neighbouring property, the neighbour’s consent is required.
- The placement and positioning of brackets is important so if angled brackets are used, the maximum outward angle is 45 degrees; and they must be installed on the inside of the boundary wall.
- Electric fencing on top of walls must be at least 1,5m above ground level.
- The fencing must be installed and operate in such a way that it won’t be hazardous or allow people or animals to become entangled in the wires.
- Barbed or razor wire cannot be electrified.
- Electric fences that are installed along public roads or pathways must be identified with compliant yellow warning signs at least 100mm x 200mm, which are also required at all gates and access points. In urban areas, the spacing between the warning signs must not exceed 10m.
- It must not be possible for people and animals to become entangled in the fence.
Does the ECA offer training courses for fence system installers?
Yes, the ECA’s offers an EWSETA-accredited electric fence system installer course at the ECA(SA)’s training centre in Meadowdale for qualified electricians who have passed the electrical trade test and who have a Wireman’s Licence in single-phase – Installation Electricians or Master Installation Electricians.
Phone 011 392 0000
Email [email protected]
Erika van Zyl, National Communications Manager ECA(SA), kindly gave us permission to use her articles.