Changes to general duties of owners or operators of complex electrical installations and railways

From 16 May 2024, changes to the general duties of owners or operators of complex electrical installations and railways under section 75 of the Electricity Safety Act 1998 come into effect.

Owners or operators of complex electrical installations and railways are required to minimise as far as practicable the hazards and risks to people and property and bushfire danger arising from the installation or railway. Formally, owners and operators were required to take reasonable care to ensure that their complex electrical installations or railway supply networks comply with the regulations and are safe and operated safely.

The amended general duties of owners or operators of complex electrical installations and railways now align with the general duties of major electricity companies. The penalty units have also been amended for consistency.

How obligations have changed under the amended general duties

For owners or operators of a complex electrical installation

The amended general duty1, which applies from 16 May 2024, states:

An owner or operator of a complex electrical installation must design, construct, operate, maintain and decommission the installation to minimise as far as practicable:

(a) the hazards and risks to the safety of any person arising from the installation

(b) the hazards and risks of damage to the property of any person arising from the installation

(c) the bushfire danger arising from the installation.

Penalty:

  • In the case of a natural person, 1800 penalty units.
  • In the case of a body corporate, 9000 penalty units.

This compares to the former general duty which states:

An owner or operator of a complex electrical installation must take reasonable care to ensure that all parts of the complex electrical installation that it owns or operates:

(a) are designed, constructed, operated, maintained and decommissioned in accordance with the regulations

(b) are safe and operated safely.

Penalty:

  • 1500 penalty units.

For owners or operators of a railway

The amended general duty2, which applies from 16 May 2024, states:

An owner or operator of a railway must design, construct, operate, maintain and decommission the supply network of the railway to minimise as far as practicable:

(a) the hazards and risks to the safety of any person arising from the supply network

(b) the hazards and risks of damage to the property of any person arising from the supply network

(c) the bushfire danger arising from the supply network.

Penalty:

  • In the case of a natural person, 1800 penalty units.
  • In the case of a body corporate, 9000 penalty units.

This compares to the former general duty which states:

An owner or operator of a railway must take reasonable care to ensure that all parts of the supply network of the railway that it owns or operates:

(a) are designed, constructed, operated, maintained and decommissioned in accordance with the regulations

(b) are safe and operated safely.

Penalty:

  • 1500 penalty units.

Minimising hazards and risks to people and property and bushfire danger

To determine what is as far as ‘practicable’ in relation to the minimisation of hazards and risks to people and property and bushfire danger, regard will be had to:

  • the severity of the hazard or risk in question
  • the state of knowledge about the hazard or risk and any ways of removing or mitigating the hazard or risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to remove or mitigate the hazard or risk
  • the cost of removing or mitigating the hazard or risk3.

Guidance

Energy Safe will provide guidelines to assist owners and operators of complex electrical installations and railways to understand and comply with the amended duties. These guidelines will be released for consultation when available.

In the meantime, owners and operators of complex electrical installations and railways can also refer to our draft guidelines for safety cases – see current consultation. These guidelines outline the concepts and our expectations for identifying hazards and risks and determining what is ‘practicable’.

Regulations

The amended general duties do not include specific reference to the regulations. Nevertheless, owners or operators of complex electrical installations and railways must comply with the regulations made under the Electricity Safety Act.

Penalties of not complying

Failure to comply with the amended section 75 general duties of owners or operators of complex electrical installations and railways is an offence under the Electricity Safety Act and can lead to penalties of:

  • 1800 penalty units in the case of a natural person ($346,158 as at April 2024)
  • 9000 penalty units in the case of a body corporate ($1,730,790 as at April 2024)4.

1 section 75(1) of the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (Vic) amended by clause 6 of the Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Safety) Act 2023

2 section 75(2) of the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (Vic) amended by clause 6 of the Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Safety) Act 2023

3 definition of ‘practicable’ section 3 Electricity Safety Act 1998 (Vic) applied consistent with other similar general duty provisions.

4 one penalty unit is currently $192.31, from 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024.

Date: 30/05/2024 1:41

The currency and accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed once printed or saved to a storage device. If in doubt, please check the Energy Safe Victoria website for the current version.

Reviewed