Electrical safety

Electrical safety is incredibly important and we all have a part to play.

We use electricity for lots of menial tasks, like turning on a light switch, making toast and charging our phones, but we also use it to power important things like medical equipment, traffic control and street lights. We might take it for granted, but electricity is not something to mess around with – it can kill.

We all have a responsibility to use electricity safely. Every householder in NSW is legally obliged to keep their home safe, including the way it uses electricity. The same goes for business owners – they are responsible for the electrical safety of their employees and everyone else on premises.

This page includes information on:

Risks and injuries

Faulty appliances, damaged or worn power cords, power points and household wiring, electrical appliances coming in contact with water and downed power lines can all cause electric shocks. While some shocks are a minor ‘tingle’, others can be much more serious.

Electric shock can cause:

  • muscle spasms
  • nausea and vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • collapse and unconsciousness
  • palpitations, cardiac arrest and damage to the heart
  • serious and permanent burns to the skin and internal organs
  • related injuries including falls from ladders or scaffolding
  • death
  • fire and explosion.

Don’t risk injury and death, follow our tips to stay safe.

Safety requirements

Electrical installation work

By law, any electrical installation work must be done by a licensed electrician.

Electricians are required to provide you with a uniquely numbered Certificate of Compliance Electrical Work (CCEW) to show that the work has been tested and complies with the regulations.

They may also need to provide a copy of the CCEW to the electricity network operator or NSW Fair Trading. Often a CCEW is required for warranty purposes for the electrical article that has been installed.

Safety labels for electrical goods

Certain electrical products and appliances must be certified and approved against Australian standards before they can be sold in NSW. This includes electric room heaters and power tools that run from mains power.

Approved appliances will have an approval mark or number. These numbers vary according to the certifying body.

Below is a list of the certifiers approved in NSW and their approval number or mark. The 'x' represents the individual approval number.

Approved electrical safety certification schemes and their numbers

Approval schemeApproval number or mark
Australian Safety ApprovalASA-xxxxxx-EA
The Australian Gas Association (AGA)AGA xxxxxx EA or
AGA xxxxxx G EA
BSI Group (Australia and New Zealand) Pty LtdBSI-xxxxxx-EA
Conformity Certification Services Pty LtdCCS-xxxxxx-EA
Global Mark Pty LtdGMA-xxxxxx-EA
International Testing and Certification Services Pty LtdA/xxxxxx/EA
Market Access (AUS) Pty Ltd trading as Certification Body AustraliaCBA xxxxxx or
CBA-xxxxxx-EA
NSW Fair TradingNSW xxxxx
Other State Government agenciesQ xxxxx, ESO xxxxx
Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM)Regulatory Compliance Mark
SAA Approvals Pty LtdSAA xxxxxx EA
SAI Global Certification Services Pty LtdSAI TE EA xxxxxx or
SAI SMK EA xxxxxx or
SAI-xxxxx-EA
SGS Systems and Services Certification Pty LtdSGS-xxxxxx-EA
Testing and Certification AustraliaTCA xxxxxx EA
TUV Rheinland Australia Pty LtdTUV xxxxxx EA
UL International New Zealand LimitedU xxxxxx EA

Only Australian approval marks are acceptable on goods sold in Australia. Marks such as ‘CE’ are not recognised electrical safety approval marks.

Penalties

Did you know? NSW Fair Trading conducts shop inspections to ensure electrical equipment sold meets safety requirements. Sellers of unsatisfactory goods may be instructed to suspend sales, recall previously sold goods or face prosecution.

Anyone offering or supplying non-compliant, unapproved or unmarked power tools to the general public risks a maximum penalty of $825,000 for a corporation or $82,500 and/or two years imprisonment for an individual.

Your consumer rights

As a consumer, you have the right to expect that the goods you buy are safe. That’s why we’re here.

Australian Consumer Law requires safety standards to be met before certain goods are sold. These standards include:

  • the way the good is made
  • what it contains
  • how it works
  • the tests it needs to pass
  • whether any warnings or instructions need to accompany it.

Individual suppliers who breach Australian Consumer Law can be fined up to $220,000, while corporations can be fined up to $1.1 million.

Report a safety concern

IMPORTANT: If you are injured and require urgent medical assistance, don’t delay - contact your GP or call 000 immediately.

For electrical goods

If you become aware of an unsafe item (including incorrect or absent safety labelling), whether or not anyone has been injured:

  1. Alert the supplier about the issue.
  2. You can also report it us by calling 13 32 20 or making a complaint online, or report the matter to Product Safety Australia.

Learn about our complaint handling process and view our complaints register.

For mains supply electricity

If you have, or suspect a problem, always contact a licensed electrician.

For major problems, call the emergency number on your electricity bill to arrange to make your electrical installation safe.

If you’re renting, report electrical problems to your landlord or managing agent immediately. These should be repaired as a priority as landlords have a legal obligation to ensure all electrical installations and fittings on their property are kept in safe order.

Report an electrical accident

By law you must report any electrical accident where medical treatment is required. Call your electricity provider or contact the Fair Trading Electrical and Gas Safety Unit on 13 32 20 or via email.

You can send us a letter too at:

Electrical and Gas Unit
NSW Fair Trading
PO Box 972
PARRAMATTA, NSW  2124

You should include information on the accident (where, when and what happened), and provide contact details so we can get in touch with you.

Employers must also report accidents to SafeWork NSW.

Be a savvy consumer

Most accidents can be avoided if you:

  • use care and common sense
  • don’t do it yourself – get a professional to do the job
  • don’t mix water and electricity
  • use a safety switch (see below for more on safety switches).

Electric shock first aid

If electric shock occurs:

Rescue

Remember that the person is electrified until released.

  1. Take precautions against receiving a shock yourself by immediately switching off the electricity, where possible.
  2. If power cannot be disconnected, unless higher than household voltage is involved, free the victim from contact immediately by using a dry stick, board, rope, clothing, plastic pipe or other non-conducting device. DO NOT touch the victim with your bare hands or any metal or moist object.
  3. If possible prevent a fall which may cause further injury.
  4. Call for an ambulance or doctor.

Resuscitation

The first three minutes are vital. Act immediately!

Assess the level of consciousness, then if victim is not breathing, commence resuscitation.

Use a qualified electrician

  • Always use a qualified electrician. You can ask to see their electrical contractor’s licence, do a licence check on our website or call us on 13 32 20.
  • If you are completing renovations, have your electrician check the earth system.
  • Electricians must provide you with a Compliance Certificate to show that the electrical work carried out has been tested and is safe.

Safe use of electrical equipment

  • Always follow the instructions that come with appliances.
  • Always treat a ‘tingle’ or slight shock as a warning. Never touch an appliance that causes a ‘tingle’ or shock until it is repaired by an approved repairer.
  • Replace broken switches and power points and cover them up while waiting for an electrician.
  • Fully unwind extension cords before use as they may overheat.
  • Don’t stack plugs. It can overload the power point and cause a fire.
  • Switch off all heating appliances if the power fails. Fires can start when power returns unexpectedly.
  • Switch off before pulling out a plug. Grasp the plug – not the cord.
  • Be careful not to spray household cleaners and insecticides on power points or switches. It may cause cracking and an electrical hazard.
  • Tie the tapes of the electric blanket to prevent creasing.
  • Teach children that power points and appliances are not toys. Children can touch live pins of plugs. Plastic covers for power points reduce the chance of children inserting objects.
  • Some overseas products may not operate satisfactorily or safely under Australian conditions using 240V 50Hz supply. They could be hazardous if used without modification. Have them checked before use.

Maintenance and repairs

  • It’s vital to keep your appliances, electrical wiring, fittings, switchboard and earthing connections (particularly for properties over 25 years old) in good working order.
  • Take care when working near wiring (eg sawing, nailing, or drilling into walls).
  • All electrical repairs should be carried out by an approved repairer.
  • Damaged cords and older style plugs are dangerous. Have them replaced.

Safety switches

  • Safety switches are also known as Residual Current Devices (RCDs). They help to protect against the most frequent cause of electrocution where electricity passes through the body to earth.
  • Remember, safety switches can enhance safety but they do not remove the need to observe safe electrical practices and properly maintain equipment.
  • Fixed safety switches offer the best protection, but portable safety switches are also useful when working away from home.
  • Before using portable safety switches, check that the power point is safe with a plug-type tester.
  • Push the ‘TEST’ button every three months. If it fails, have a licensed electrician check the switch.
  • If your house was built before 1977, it is unlikely to have an earth rod and you should seriously consider having a safety switch installed.

Electric room heaters

  • When buying a new heater, make sure you see the approval mark/number. If it isn’t visible, ask the sales person to show it to you. If it’s not there, don’t buy the heater. Buy another one with appropriate safety approval marks.
  • If you are buying from an overseas seller, make sure the heater is manufactured to Australian safety standards.
  • Do not place the heater too close to other furniture items in your home. The heat could ignite the other furniture.
  • Do not put clothing or other items on or too close to the heater. It could start a fire.
  • Do not allow children or pets to play, stand or sit too close to the heater.
  • Older-style heaters with rusted reflectors or frames could cause hot spots, start a fire and/or cause injury if touched. They also may not include the latest safety features.

Electricity outdoors

  • Don’t leave appliances and cords out in the weather – put them away after use.
  • Be careful where you dig or drive stakes. There may be buried cables, especially in areas with underground electricity supply. Don’t risk injury or damage, dial before you dig on 1100.
  • Never use a portable appliance or extension cord where it could be splashed or fall into a pool. Temporary or makeshift wiring arrangements to pool pumps and spas are hazardous.
  • Wiring to a caravan must be kept in good condition.

Electricity in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry

  • Electricity in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
  • Do not immerse appliances in water to wash them unless instructions clearly allow it.
  • Don’t touch appliances or switches with wet hands.
  • Do not use a portable electric radiator in the bathroom. A permanently installed heater is much safer.
  • Never leave an appliance near the bath or basin and unplug the appliance after every use. Children have been electrocuted by pulling hairdryers into baths even though the hairdryer switch was off.
  • Dry shoes should be worn when using electrical appliances in laundries, on concrete floors or outdoors. Electric shocks are much more likely to be fatal with bare feet.

Power lines

  • Climbing towers or poles or entering substations may cause electrocution or very severe burns.
  • Don’t fly kites, model aeroplanes or drones anywhere near power lines.
  • Keep clear of overhead wires attached to buildings when painting, clearing gutters or using ladders.

Further information

The Gas and Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2017 and supporting Gas and Electricity (Consumer Safety) Regulation 2018 outlines in full minimum consumer safety standards and requirements for electrical appliances and installation.

Earth wires

  • Earth wires are usually coloured green/yellow or green although older installations may contain bare earth wires. Unless an appliance is ‘double insulated’ (marked), the earth wire performs a vital safety function in the event of equipment failure.
  • In cords and plugs, the earth wire must be correctly connected only to the earth terminal marked ‘E’ or ‘.’ The installation earth is usually connected to a metal stake and water pipe.

Power lines

  • Voltages of up to 500,000V can exist on overhead lines or in substations. Electricity can spark across a gap, so even approaching lines or substation equipment can be dangerous.
  • Trees should be kept clear of power lines. Irrigation pipes, tip trucks, boat masts, cranes, grain augers, concrete pump/booms, radio aerials should not be stored or operated close to power lines.
  • Fallen power lines should not be touched. If you see a fallen power line keep clear, stand guard and contact the electricity distributor or police.

Browse our Product safety section for more information on a range of product types including baby and children’s products, electrical goods, and other consumer items.

The Product Safety Australia website is managed by the ACCC and has information on gas safety and national recalls.

Suppliers can find out more about their responsibilities on the selling safe products page.

Learn more about energy services in NSW.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Call us on 13 32 20 or submit an online enquiry.

Prev Product recalls
Next Gas safety