Safety is crucial in Victoria's solar rollout — regulators

Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Safety is crucial in Victoria's solar rollout — regulators

Three regulators in Victoria are cracking down on safety with the rollout of 30,000 new solar power and hot water systems. Worksafe, Energy Safe Victoria and the Victorian Building Authority are joining forces to support this rollout and ensure safety standards are adhered to.

“Agencies across government want to make it very clear that safety breaches will not be tolerated,” said Solar Victoria’s Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Leake. “Compliance with Victoria’s longstanding workplace health and safety and electrical safety laws has to be the paramount consideration.”

Within 10 years, the Solar Homes Program will bring solar panels to one million homes in Victoria. This will help Victorians save more than $500 million a year on their electricity bills, cut carbon emissions by almost four million tonnes and contribute significantly to the state’s 40% target for renewable energy by 2025.

The program requires installers to be suitably trained and qualified, and be in possession of the right equipment to safely do their work. Solar retailers, installation companies, their contractors and workers are all responsible for safety, and Leake warned against taking any short cuts.

“Failing the safety test may lead to you being removed from the Clean Energy Council’s Accredited Installers lists and referral for investigation and prosecution by the appropriate agency,” he said. “We know most people and companies in the solar installation industry are working hard to do the right thing, but experience shows that people who are under time pressures can ask someone else to do something dangerous, or believe that because they have experience that means they’re safe.”

WorkSafe’s Acting Executive Director of Health and Safety, Paul Fowler, particularly noted the risks of falls from height, stating they occur too often in the construction industry.

“For this reason, WorkSafe has no tolerance for employers who ignore the risk of falls, and we do prosecute duty holders for serious breaches of occupational health and safety laws.

“Guidance on how to control the risk of falls from heights is readily available through WorkSafe, and there is no excuse for employers not being aware of what measures should be used.”

A building group was convicted and fined $70,000 last month after a worker fell from a roof while installing solar panels at a Warrnambool property.

The Solar Homes program requires installers to hold an unrestricted Class A Electrical Licence registered with Energy Safe Victoria, be accredited by the Clean Energy Council and use only approved products to ensure safety. To help achieve this, the program includes $9 million to support accreditation of 4500 electricians to install solar panel systems.

“New solar installations must be inspected by a Licensed Electrical Inspector who has the knowledge and experience to inspect solar installations,” said Energy Safe’s Director of Electrical Safety, Paul Fearon.

Before a new installation can be put into operation, a Certificate of Electrical Safety must be issued and registered with Energy Safe Victoria. Solar hot water systems should only be installed by an appropriately registered or licensed plumber to ensure the system is compliant and installed efficiently.

Solar Victoria also announced it has joined forces with Consumer Affairs Victoria to establish a taskforce which will maximise consumer protection during the solar rebate program.

Image credit: © Baek Pedersen

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