Working in Roof Spaces – Changes to OHS Regulations

Working in Roof Spaces – Changes to OHS Regulations

On the 14th May 2018, new legislation will come into effect outlining the requirements for working in roof spaces. These changes have been put in place to protect workers in roof spaces from being inadvertently exposed to electrical hazards.

Electrical hazards in roof spaces include things like unprotected joins, damaged insulation causing exposed wiring or bad workmanship. If an electrician only turns off the circuit they are working on, they can still be exposed to these hazards on other live circuits.

In short, the legislation requires that ALL WORKERS, whether electricians or not and whether conducting electrical work or not, are required to isolate and lock out the mains power before entering a roof space.

What does this mean for you?

When engaging a worker who is required to work in the roof space, you will need to be prepared to have your whole house power turn off for the duration of the work. If the job is only small or they are required to be in the roof space for a short time, this should not cause any major inconvenience. However, if the job requires the worker to be in the roof space for a longer duration, you will need to plan to be without power for a longer period of time.

You may need to consider things like:

Fridges and freezers
Inability to use household appliances
Resetting of reticulation systems
Inability to operate garage doors
Landlines not working
Essential health equipment power supply

If you are engaging a worker who will need to access your roof space, talk to them to determine how long the power will need to be off. Most of the time, it should only need to be off for a short time however it is always better to plan in advance.

You can find more information on the new legislation by clicking here.

What To Do When Your Power Trips

Power Trips
What to do when your power trips

Power trips are one of those annoying things that usually happen at the most inconvenient time. They will often happen in the middle of cooking dinner or when you are hosting a party. For a moment, you may have that dreaded thought that you forgot to pay your power bill.

Nine times out of ten, they will happen outside of business hours. This could mean an expensive call out charge if you have to call an electrician. However, there are some simple steps you can take to try and resolve the problem yourself.

What now?

There are a number of reasons why you might suddenly lose power. You first need to identify whether the problem is with your switchboard or a result of a neighbourhood power outage. If you still have internet access, you can check for outages on the Western Power website.

Otherwise, check your switchboard and if all the breakers are in the on position, the problem is most likely on the supply side. Look for a switch in the off position and try resetting it. If it trips again, you will need to find the cause of the problem.

Sometimes your light and power circuit will be on the same RCD. In this situation, you will need to determine if the problem is with your lights or your power. To do this, switch off all the circuit breakers and turn them back on one at a time. Pay attention to which breakers you are switching on. Turn the circuit breakers on one at a time and if the RCD trips, then the problem is with that circuit. If it trips when you turn on a lighting circuit, you will have to leave the circuit breaker off and call an electrician to attend and fix the problem.

If the RCD trips when you turn a power circuit breaker on, then you need to check that the problem is not being caused by an appliance. Walk around your house and switch off all electrical appliances. Make sure you unplug them too. Try to reset the tripped RCD. If it resets, plug in and turn on the appliances one at a time. If plugging in an appliance causes the RCD to trip, then the problem is likely with that item. Leave it unplugged and reset your RCD.

What if that doesn’t work?

Once you have taken these steps, and the RCD is still tripping, contact us to come and investigate the problem.

Electricity Costs: DIY energy audit on your home

electricity costs audit
Electricity costs are on the rise.

Electricity costs are rising and with more people switching to solar and becoming less reliant on grid power it is likely they will continue to rise.

Household power consumption has also dramatically increased over the last few decades. Society has become more reliant on electrical products such as computers, televisions, dishwashers etc than ever before.

But how can you work out how much these appliances are costing you to run and how can you use this information to save money?

Conducting your own energy audit

Working out the energy use and electricity costs of an appliance is very simple and you can conduct your an energy audit yourself. All you need is a few pieces of paper, a calculator and a few spare hours. You will also need a recent copy of your electrical bill to identify the cost of your electricity per unit.

Start by doing a “stocktake” of all the electrical appliances in your house. Estimate the usage time for each appliance. For instance, kettles are generally used a few times per day for short periods. Televisions, however, are often for many hours during the day. Don’t forget to include things such as your lights, electric hot water system, fridge, oven etc.

Next, you need to determine the appliances rate of energy consumption. For example, a 1000w appliance will use 1000w for each hour of use.  Most appliances will have a sticker indicating the wattage of the device.

Once you have the wattage, you will need to convert it to kWh. To do this, simply divide the number of watts by 1000. For example, a 60w globe converts to 0.06 kWh.

Finally, multiply the kWh by the number of hours of use each day and multiply this by the cost per kWh as show on your electricity bill. Voila! You now know how much each particular appliance is costing you to run per day. You can then multiply that out to determine the weekly, monthly and annual costs too.

If you are finding your electricity costs are unusually high, try conducting your own energy audit. Otherwise, contact us and we can help you determine the cause.

How to Maintain Your Smoke Alarm

So you know you have at least one (maybe two depending on the layout of your house) hardwired smoke alarm installed in your house. You probably don’t pay much attention to it but every now and then it gives you a shrieking reminder that your toast is burning. Hey at least it works right?

However will it work when you really need it to? Do you test it regularly? Do you know its expiry date? Did you know that they even have an expiry date? Don’t worry if you don’t, you are one of the many people that are unaware.

In the event of a fire, your smoke alarm is your first warning to get out of the house. When a house fire starts at night, by the time the occupants have awoken to the smell of smoke it’s already too late to escape. Smoke alarms save lives. More accurately, working smoke alarms save lives.

Checking and maintaining your smoke alarm

So how do you check your smoke alarm is working and in date?

Firstly, you should inspect your smoke alarm once a month to ensure it is free from dirt, dust and insects. Use a vacuum or soft bristle brush to carefully clean out the unit.

Every unit will have a test button on the front cover. Always test the unit by pressing this button after cleaning. If the unit gives out an audible sound, it is working.

Alternatively, you can purchase cans of smoke alarm test spray to spray at the unit to set it off. We recommend following the instructions on the can to ensure proper use.Smoke Alarm Expiry

To check the date of the alarm, you will need to open the cover. Using a ladder or safety step, remove the cover of the unit. Underneath you will see either an expiry date or a date of manufacture or installation. Your alarm has 10 years from the date of manufacture or installation before expiring.

Don’t forget to change your battery once a year (with the exception of approved battery operated units). April 1st is Change Your Smoke Alarm Battery Day.

Types of Smoke Alarms

There are two main types of smoke alarms for domestic application; Photoelectric and Ionisation. Photoelectric smoke alarms respond faster to larger particles such as those created by smouldering fires. Ionisation alarms respond faster to smaller particles which are produce by fires with larger flames. In the event of a fire, you would want to be made aware of the fire while it is still in the smouldering stage.

Be Prepared

It is important to always be prepared in case the worst should happen. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has some great information on preparing a family escape plan https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/fireinthehome/pages/homeescapeplan.aspx

Save Money on Your Electrical Work

save money

Electrical work is one of those unavoidable expenses. In Western Australia, all electrical work must be done by a licensed contractor. DIY electrical work is dangerous and illegal and not worth the risk to save a few dollars. However, there are ways you can save money on your electrical work that won’t put you, your family or your house at risk.

DIY Non Electrical Aspects of the Job 
In Western Australia, ALL electrical work must be done by a licensed electrical contractor. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to save money. For instance, if you are looking to have Downlights installed, you may want to consider measuring up and cutting out the holes yourself. This is one of the most time consuming parts of installing new lights. If you or someone you know has the required skills and equipment, you can save money by doing it yourself. Similarly, if you are having power run in your new shed, you can dig the trench yourself instead of paying us to do it. We are always happy to offer you advice on this if you need.

Buy your own products
There are pros and cons to supplying your own products. By supplying your own products you can select the types and styles which appeal to you most. Plus by buying direct from the supplier you can save some of your hard earned dollars.

However, keep in mind that if you supply your own products, we can only extend our   guarantee to the installation workmanship. If the product fails, you will have to negotiate with your supplier to have it fixed or replaced.

Also beware of purchasing products that don’t meet Australian Standards.  For more information on complying with Australia Standards visit http://www.doesitcomply.com.au/

Consider the season
What do the seasons have to do with indoor electrical work? Have you ever been in your roof cavity in the middle of summer? Let me tell you, it’s hot! Really hot! In this kind of heat, workers can only safely spend short periods of time in the roof space before they have to come down for a break and a drink of water. This means the job could take longer and when you’re being billed at an hourly rate, it means your job will cost more. So if you are planning on having work done in your house that requires the electrician to spend a lot of time in the roof, try and plan it for the cooler months. If you’re not sure, ask us! We’re always happy to advise.

Get a minimum of three quotes 
The concept of getting a minimum of three quotes is not to find the cheapest person. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. However the most expensive does not guarantee the best work or service either. By getting a minimum of three quotes, you can get a general idea of what is a fair price for your job. For example, if two contractors quote $1500 and one quotes $450, you may want to consider why the cheapest quote is so cheap. Similarly, if two come in at $450 and one at $1500, there’s a fair chance the higher one is unreasonably high. Always ask for clarification on what’s included in your quotes if you’re not sure.

Stage your work or do it all in one hit?
Depending on your resources, you may need to have your work completed in stages. However, if you can have it all done at one time, you can save money. As a crude example, one power point might cost X amount to install. To do the job, we have to get the materials, drive to your place, set up the workspace, complete the work, clean up, etc. Each time you call us back, we have to go through the same process. One power point may take 1.5 hours to do, but 4 may take 4 hours. Therefore, by getting it all done at one time, you have saved yourself 2 hours of labour charges.

Is Your Electrical Testing Up To Date?

Electrical Testing and Tagging

 

Why is electrical testing important?

In Western Australia, the law requires employers to provide a high standard of safety and health at their workplaces and ensure, as far as practicable, that employees are not injured or harmed because of their work.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to provide and maintain, as far as practicable, a safe working environment for your workers, under Section 19(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (OSH Act). This is called the employer’s ‘duty of care’.  This includes providing and maintaining workplaces, plant and systems of work so your workers are not exposed to hazards. Ensuring that all portable plug in electrical equipment and residual current devices (RCD’s) at the workplace are safe and appropriately inspected, tested and maintained by a competent person is an important step in meeting this responsibility.

Can it be done in house?

A person who has been deemed competent may undertake electrical testing. Competency is achieved through a course provided by an RTO. Some employers choose to wear the expense of training staff and maintaining their electrical tagging in-house.

An employer should weight up the pros and cons of undertaking in-house electrical tagging vs contracting the work out.

In-house electrical testing can result in poorly maintained electrical equipment due to time constraints on staff.  In addition, the costs involved in training staff can quickly add up when staff members leave the company or changes roles. Furthermore, testing equipment requires annual calibration at significant expense. Using a contractor for your electrical testing and tagging can save you time and money.