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Equipment safety

Find out what 'electrically safe' means according to Queensland laws.

Essential safety criteria

Legislation sets standards for electrical equipment manufactured or imported into Australia to ensure it is electrically safe.

A person conducting a business or undertaking has a primary duty of care to ensure the business is conducted in a way that is 'electrically safe'. This includes making sure electrical equipment that is used, designed, manufactured, imported and supplied is 'electrically safe'.

'Electrical equipment' that is 'electrically safe', is defined by Queensland legislation as:

  • electrically safe means, for electrical equipment or an electrical installation, that all persons and property are free from electrical risk from the equipment or installation.
  • free from electrical risk, for a person or property, means that—
    • electrical risk to the person or property has been eliminated, so far as is reasonably practicable; or
    • if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate electrical risk to the person or property, the risk has been minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

The term 'reasonably practicable' is based on a risk management approach and is defined by Queensland legislation as:

  • reasonably practicable, in relation to a duty to ensure electrical safety, means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring electrical safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including
    • the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned happening; and
    • the degree of harm ;that might result from the hazard or the risk; and
    • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about—
      • the hazard or the risk; and
      • ways of eliminating or minimising the risk; and
    • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
    • after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

The joint Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 3820 Essential safety requirements of electrical equipment, is one part of the framework used by Electrical Safety Regulatory Authorities. This standard requires suppliers of electrical equipment know their obligation to ensure equipment they supply is electrically safe and meets safety criteria. This applies to all electrical equipment irrespective of the Electrical Equipment Safety System (EESS).

A supplier should meet the safety criteria requirements to ensure the equipment is electrically safe. A supplier may be required to action other items and  address all risks the equipment has to ensure it is electrically safe.

AS/NZS 3820 describes outcome-orientated safety criteria for electrical equipment. Complying with safety criteria can be demonstrated when complying to relevant standards. AS/NZS 3820 states that complying with safety criteria may not be recognised if:

  • there is a shortcoming in the product standard
  • there is an inappropriate application of the product standard
  • there is a failure to comply with good engineering practice as referred to in Clause 1 of AS/NZS 3820.

A relevant standard is defined by Queensland legislation as:

  1. The relevant standard for electrical equipment is—:
    1. if there is a Standards Australia or joint Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand standard that applies specifically to the type—that standard together with AS/NZS3820 (Essential safety requirements for electrical equipment); or
    2. if there is not a Standards Australia or joint Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand standard that applies specifically to the type and there is an IEC standard that applies specifically to the type—the IEC standard together with AS/NZS3820; or
    3. if neither paragraph (a) nor (b) applies—then AS/NZS3820.
  2. In this section—

    IEC standard means an International Electrotechnical Commission standard.


    AS/NZS 3820 also indicates that at times, more than one standard may apply to equipment. Compliance to a relevant standard or standards may not be valid if the equipment is involved in an incident where it has failed from design or manufacturing faults.

    The supplier of electrical equipment should have technical documentation (in the form of technical construction/compliance file) that demonstrates the conformity of the electrical equipment to the requirements of AS/NZS 3820. It must, as far as relevant for such an assessment, cover the design, manufacture and operation of the electrical equipment in English and include (but not limited to):
    1. a general description of the electrical equipment including photographs
    2. conceptual design and manufacturing drawings and schemes of components, subassemblies and circuits
    3. descriptions and explanations necessary for the understanding of said drawings, schemes and the operation of the electrical equipment
    4. a list of the standards applied in full or in part and descriptions of the solutions adopted to satisfy the safety aspects of this standard
    5. results of design calculations made and examinations carried out
    6. test reports
    7. application and details of routine tests applied, if any.

Note: The above safety criteria apply to all electrical equipment irrespective of the EESS. For in-scope electrical equipment, additional requirements apply that must be met prior to sale.

Once this threshold has been met, there are ongoing responsibilities for suppliers.

Specific product safety standards to achieve compliance with AS/NZS 3820 can be purchased from SAI Global .