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Safety first for Queensland’s booming solar farm industry

Note: This esafe bulletin was correct at the date of publication. Since then, section 73A (Work involving PV modules at solar farms) has been omitted from the Electrical Safety Regulation 2013. This followed a Supreme Court of Queensland decision on 29 May 2019 to declare section 73A invalid. The Construction and Operation of Solar Farms Code of Practice 2019 was amended on 30 September 2019 to remove information referring to repealed section 73A.

A new code of practice and electrical safety regulations will commence next month to enhance safety in the growing commercial solar farm industry. The Construction and operation of solar farms Code of Practice 2019(PDF, 942.09 KB) comes into effect on 13 May 2019.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the code of practice, in conjunction with a new regulation, means mounting, locating, fixing and removal of solar panels at solar farms can only be undertaken by licensed electricians.

During the consultation process, stakeholders raised concerns about unlicensed workers mounting and removing live solar panels.

"These new regulations are all about ensuring we keep pace with new and emerging technologies and keep workers safe,” Ms Grace said.

“Solar panels generate power as soon as they are exposed to light and cannot be isolated while they are being mounted.

“Workers are at risk from electrocution and fires if solar panels are not properly earthed during installation.

“Removing panels can be even more dangerous. These are not jobs for unlicensed workers.”

The code of practice provides guidance to ensure safety at solar farms throughout their life cycle, including design, construction, operation and maintenance, and de-commissioning.

The code consolidates existing electrical and work health and safety requirements for solar farms. It includes information on what does, and does not, constitute electrical work and how designers, constructors and operators can comply with their existing safety duties.

It covers design of a solar farm to ensure:

  • adequate documentation and sign off
  • safe connection to networks is identified before construction
  • appropriate equipment selection
  • design aspects for safe construction, operation and maintenance
  • safety considerations for de-commissioning at end of life.

Other areas include:

  • clarification of electrical work
  • licensing and competency requirements
  • supervision of people assisting an electrical worker
  • compliance with wiring rules
  • working near energised electrical parts
  • earthing requirements
  • high voltage safety
  • arc flash
  • specific DC PV electrical safety issues
  • commissioning
  • use of accredited auditors
  • safe systems of work for operation, inspection and maintenance
  • high risk construction work and licenses
  • hazardous manual tasks
  • plant
  • traffic management
  • exposure to noise
  • remote or isolated work
  • first aid
  • heat and fatigue management
  • worker welfare
  • emergency planning
  • access to worksite
  • Q fever, hazardous chemicals and waste management.

The code and regulation apply to all solar farms, including new and existing solar farms, with total rated capacity of at least 100kW that are, or will be, operated by a business. This approach will ensure there is a level playing field for all participants and new entrants to the solar farm market, irrespective of the design or system used, and that consistent safety measures are adopted.

The requirements only affect commercial solar farms and not residential solar installations or other renewable technologies.

Further information

For more details about the new code of practice and electrical safety regulation visit electricalsafety.qld.gov.au.

Last updated
30 September 2019

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