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Energy Safety Review Bill changes

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Energy Safety Review Bill: Background information

The purpose of this paper is to provide background information on the changes proposed in the Energy Safety Review Bill. The paper also explains a decision to transfer responsibility for the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act from the Ministry of Health to the Department of Building and Housing.


Energy Safety legislation changes

Lists changes to legislation as a result of the Energy Safety Review Bill 2006.

Improved regime for Energy Safety – new legislation

On 23 November 2006, Parliament amended the Electricity Act 1992 and Gas Act 1992, and introduced a new Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act. The amended and new legislation will ensure continued access to safe and reliable energy for everyday use and for use in industry.

The legislation also requires electricity generators and distributors, and gas network owners, to have safety management systems in place as a new initiative to minimise the public's exposure to risk. It also introduces consistent regimes for the electricity and gas sectors based on the registration of workers, competency-based licensing, updated procedures for addressing complaints against workers, and updated enforcement provisions.


Occupational regulation provisions

Broadly, the legislation introduces consistent regimes for workers in the electricity and gas sectors based on the registration of workers, competency-based licensing, updated procedures for addressing complaints against workers and updated enforcement provisions.

The Electrical Workers Registration Board and the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board will play a critical role in the successful implementation of this legislation. They have been delegated the responsibility for the registration and licensing of their workers.

The legislation includes a number of checks and balances to ensure these responsibilities are properly discharged. For example, the Boards must act in accordance with clear principles guiding registration and licensing. Other accountability mechanisms are outlined below.

  • Registration and licensing regime - The registration and licensing regime will be more flexible to allow for specialist registration categories and for competencies to be specified for the particular work authorised under each registration category.
  • Competency-based licensing - Another important feature of the legislation is to provide for competency-based licensing. This will ensure that before a worker is issued with a new licence, his or her competence is up-to-date, for example, in relation to the use of new equipment and changes in standards and regulations.
  • Exemptions from the licensing regime - Most exemptions from the licensing regime for doing prescribed electrical work continue, but the electrical exemptions for registered persons not working for payment or reward, and for "qualified engineers" are not carried forward. There is however a more general provision for the Boards to grant exemptions.
  • Employer licences - Employer licences will continue in the electricity and gas industries. These licences have been used for over 10 years and are an alternative to individual worker licences, but they still require the same high level of competency of workers.
  • Complaints against registered workers - The arrangement for assessing complaints against registered workers, particularly electrical workers, has been substantially changed, with the role of electrical complaints assessment committees being replaced by the appointment of one or more investigators. For both sectors, investigators will investigate complaints and, if considered warranted, prosecute the case before the relevant Board. Frivolous or vexatious complaints do not, however, have to be investigated.




Accountability of the Boards and clarity of roles

The legislation provides greater guidance to the Boards on their roles and on procedures to be followed, and establishes increased accountability of the Boards to the relevant Minister.

There is also greater clarity about the respective roles of the relevant Industry Training Organisation and the Board.

Specifically, the Acts require the Boards to follow guiding principles set down in the Acts, when determining registration and licensing matters. The Boards are also required to consult with stakeholders on key matters such as registration classes, competence programmes, standards, and terms and conditions. The Boards will require the Minister's approval for notices relating to registration classes, standards, terms and conditions.


Electrical Workers Registration Board membership

The existing Electrical Workers Registration Board is retained, with some amendments to membership to reflect changes in functions (in particular, the new role with respect to employer licences).


Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board membership

The Act provides for changes to the appointments to the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Board. There will continue to be two plumbers, two gasfitters, and two drainlayers appointed, with one of each at least required to hold a current practising licence. However, to ensure that up-to-date industry knowledge is available to the board, one of the board appointments must have experience in relevant tertiary or vocational education, and two must be consumer representatives.


Three year review of the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act

The Act provides for a review of the operation of this legislation three years after it commences and report to the Minister for Building and Construction, who will present the report to Parliament.

This review will allow for any adjustments that may be necessary to the legislation and the consideration of amendments to the Act covering matters not addressed by the policy decisions taken under this legislation.


Transition arrangements

Importantly, the legislation provides that existing registrations and licences are carried forward.

The Electrical Workers Registration Board and the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board can now start work on defining new registration categories and standards, and the terms and conditions of registration and licensing. In doing so, the Boards must consider retaining the existing worker registration classes, and they must consult with stakeholders.

The new legislation will come into force in stages, to allow for implementation such as the introduction of any new registration classes and the completion of regulations. More information about the implementation of the legislation will be published on the website in due course.


Development of regulations

Work is in progress to amend the Electricity Regulations and the Gas Regulations to support the new provisions in the Electricity Act and the Gas Act, including in particular matters related to safety management systems. Other updates to the regulations will also be introduced at the same time.

It is expected that public consultation documents, discussing proposed amendments to both sets of regulations, will be available in May 2007. There are also working parties with industry on the safety management system regulatory framework.

It is hoped to have new regulations in place later in 2007.




Other changes to the Electricity and Gas Acts

Safety Management Systems

The Electricity Amendment Act and the Gas Amendment Act introduce the added safety net that requires Safety Management Systems to be developed for electricity distribution systems, for large electricity generating plant and for gas distribution systems. Regulations will set out precisely who will need to have in place a safety management system.

The inclusion of safety management systems provides a framework for the owners of these systems to take responsibility for developing their own safety regimes. This approach acknowledges modern risk management concepts.


New offences

The amendments provide for new offences, including offences in respect of a person intentionally or negligently creating a risk of serious harm or significant property damage, and offences in respect of breaches of the occupational licence conditions.

Penalties for serious harm to a person or serious property damage have been increased to reflect similar penalties in the Health and Safety in Employment Act.


Accident notification and investigation

The Electricity Act, Gas Act and Health and Safety in Employment Act require certain accidents to be notified.

The new legislation allows for notification to either of the administering agencies, Energy Safety Service and Department of Labour, as fulfilment of that obligation. This means that from 5 December 2006 industry no longer has to notify an accident to both agencies.


Defining the extent of licensed work

Definition of gasfitting

The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act includes a new and updated definition of gasfitting. The most substantive change introduced is that work on installations supplied from small (less than 15 kg capacity) LPG cylinders will be brought under the licensing regime. This will affect installations such as most of those in caravans and boats, and those involving a fixed cooking hob supplied from a small cylinder.


Scope of prescribed electrical work

The definition of prescribed electrical work (PEW) is extended to allow for the inclusion of design, testing, inspection and supervision. However the specific scope – and therefore the range of work subject to the licensing regime - will continue to be prescribed in regulations as at present.

Last updated 30 April 2012
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