It seems now with the new Australian and New Zealand wiring rules AS/NZS 3000: 2018 release, and that the grace period is now well and truly over, Electrical contracting companies that offer some type of industrial service have now come to terms with the stringent rules of electrical wiring and equipment for use in hazardous areas. Although always in place, previous editions of AS3000 never mentioned the hazardous area standards resulting in electrical contracting companies not knowing the full extent of the AS60079 and the predecessor AS2381 set of standards for explosive atmospheres. Further, current economic times with the mining and gas project boom at an end, has led to quite a few licensed electricians out of work, mainly from the West coast. With no disrespect to these electricians, the main role of a typical electrician in these projects is simply pulling in cables and tray work, with the more experience electricians fitting off Ex rated glands and cable terminations, while the more specialised Ex inspectors carry out the mandatory initial detailed inspections. For The day to day electricians who have the required certificate of competency and that have travelled to the east coast looking for new opportunities, electrical contracting companies are hiring these electricians with the hope of offering an Ex inspection stream or installation service to their business. While technically these electricians hold the relevant qualifications to conduct inspections, concerns may lie with the fact that relevant inspection experience may be lacking, and as a result, missing important safety issues that would not have been missed my the more experienced Ex inspectors. While hiring an electrician with some experience and with the required relevant certificates may be ok, and may get them through the day, it is ever increasingly that electrical contracting companies are putting their own guys through the Ex course with no prior experience. What is worse, the company may only conduct 1 or 2 hazardous area jobs a month at best, while the rest of their revenue is generated by commercial or residential work and may only touch base on industrial work while promoting their business as an industrial electrical contracting company. A true Ex inspector of an electrical contracting company should have significant experience, and not just in one industry like coal mining. In order to accurately and efficiently audit installations they should pose skills, competence and experience in all industries, from coal mining, LNG gas plants, to food and beverage. This will ensure nothing is missed and that 99.99% of noncompliance and safety issues are identified and have been assessed in a timely manner.
Conclusion: Just be because electrical contracting companies think they just need to send their electricians on a short course after which they are deemed competent to inspect, does not mean he or she is truly competent. It is no different to an engineer with a degree, or an electrician with an electrical licence – there are some excellent engineers and electricians, and there are some who are woefully incompetent, that is not to suggest they are bad at their job, because lets face it, their primary job may be high voltage design or building switchboards and wiring light and power in a factory or home, not hazardous areas electrical works!