Electricity network operators will be responsible for the safe operation of electricity networks and must take all reasonable steps to eliminate or mitigate hazards under proposed new national safety rules.
On June 5, a committee comprised of industry organisations, unions and other interested parties produced a draft version of a proposed new standard regarding safety requirements for the operation of all electricity networks throughout the country.
The proposed standard follows a January Commonwealth-State agreement to harmonise requirements for energy safety regulation throughout Australia.
Set to become known as AS 5588-20XX, the draft standard identifies three key areas regarding safety in electricity networks.
First, and most obvious, networks need to be maintained and kept in good working order to prevent accidents due malfunctions or electricity faults.
Second, given the extent to which people on life support and others in emergency situations rely on uninterrupted electrical supply, the robustness and performance reliability of the network itself is a key safety issue.
The final consideration revolves around the fire safety of networks and the avoidance of catastrophic bushfires through the management of vegetation in and around the vicinity of power lines.
Under the proposed new standard, primary responsibility for the safe operation of electricity networks will rest with the operator, who will be responsible not just for the reliability and safety of the network itself but also for ensuring the avoidance of electricity network initiated bushfires.
The standard requires all potential network hazards to be identified and managed, and mandates that the network be designed and constructed with sufficient electrical capacity and mechanical strength to withstand all design loads to which it may be subjected during construction, maintenance, testing and operation.
Inspections and testing will be required before any part of the network goes into operation. Likewise, a decommissioning plan must be approved prior to any part of the network being decommissioned.
Public comments on the standard, which will apply Australia-wide, can be made anytime up until Tuesday, June 19.