Australian Standards can be a complex requirement for solar installers, but understanding their implementation can be highly advantageous, writes Nathan Smith, technical program specialist at the Clean Energy Council.
It is easy to understand why Australian Standards feel like a burden for some people. The rapid pace of technological innovation in the PV and battery space results in regular changes to compliance requirements. Add to this the fact a simple installation may encompass the requirements of three to four Australian Standards and it is a lot to navigate, especially when your days are spent on the tools and your evenings are spent quoting and invoicing.
Having a better understanding of the process of standards development and implementation can help installers leverage them to their advantage and better understand the benefits they provide.
Here are the key elements that go into an Australian Standard.
Net Benefit and Consensus
The first step to developing a better understanding lies in the intention and development process of Australian Standards. While we have discussed this process in EcoGeneration before, there are two important principles installers should consider: Net Benefit and Consensus.
Standards Australia defines Net Benefit as “having an overall positive impact on relevant communities”, meaning the benefits of the requirements of the standard must outweigh any negative impacts they impose. The criteria by which Net Benefit is measured is public health and safety; social and community impact; environmental impact; competition; and economic impact.
Consensus is a central concept demonstrated at several stages throughout the development of a standard. It ensures the content of the standard is decided by agreement and common consent. Two examples of ensuring industry consensus are:
- The process by which participants of the technical committee are nominated by key industry stakeholders.
- The public comment period, in which the public is afforded the opportunity to provide feedback on a proposed draft prior to its publication.
Because electricity is a force that can injure or kill, standards afford protection to the end users of electrical systems, and those who install, inspect and maintain them. Requirements such as using residual current devices (RCD) for additional protection make electrical installations significantly safer and can prevent electrocution in the event of someone experiencing an electric shock.
Having common requirements for all electrical installations also provides a level of predictability for licensed electrical workers. When interacting with an electrical installation, Australian Standards allow for basic principles to be assumed about how the installation operates, how electrical equipment and wiring has been installed, and the nature and potential causes of any faults.
Without Australian Standards, different installation practices could lead to significantly varied and potentially dangerous outcomes. Everyone deserves to go home safe, and standards contribute greatly to the safety of electrical installations.
The language of standards and compliance
If you have called the Clean Energy Council for support or spoken to one of us at an industry event – such as All-Energy in Melbourne or Energy Next in Sydney – you might have noticed how we use and reference Australian Standards. This provides a great example of the benefit standards impart.
When providing feedback on how best to approach a piece of work, or explaining a concept, we reference Australian Standards’ clauses to provide specific context and reason. Using standards in this way gives a strong foundation to explain how and why you went about your work.
In the event of an inspection or audit of your work, this knowledge can prove particularly useful. Standards become the language by which the issue is described, and by which the case can be argued or the requirements to rectify can be clarified.
Mastering Australian Standards
Spending time deepening our understanding of Australian Standards and the role they play in the work we do as electricians is just the first step in leveraging them to our advantage.
Understanding how to easily navigate and use a standard, the language that is used, and the process by which they are developed and implemented all contribute to getting the most out of the relevant standards to our work.
To assist in this understanding, the Clean Energy Council has developed an advice document to support electrical workers in understanding and implementing standards.
Electricians take the time to thoroughly understand a new tool, or procedure we need to follow to complete our work. Applying this approach to Australian Standards turns what could be viewed as a burden into an advantage that can inform us and those we work with, and greatly benefit the way we conduct our daily work.