Electric fencing standards lead the way to safer installations

February 2014 Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection

Quality of installations has always been a problem in the security industry. Whether you’re installing an alarm system, an electric fence, or even access control or CCTV, there has been no control over the quality of work done.

On the one hand, buyers of security systems can choose which products they use, leaving the quality of products chosen up to them, although most simply go with what their service provider supplies. This in itself leaves customers vulnerable to getting cheap products that are not reliable from unethical service providers who get jobs on price alone. Of course, some installers would rightly say that it is the customer’s fault if they demand low prices – you get what you pay for.

To try to overcome the quality problem, many people within the industry are calling for legislation requiring installers and integrators to follow set standards in their work, with penalties for those who don’t comply. Currently, every installer of security equipment must be registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), but the organisation is pretty toothless, preferring to focus on revenue collection from members than tackling non-members. There are some who would disagree with that noting that PSIRA is trying to change the industry against stiff opposition, but the perception of the association in the industry is not a positive one.

Naturally there are standards and best practices for everything from alarms to CCTV installations, but the enforcement of these standards is lacking and because customers often focus on the lowest price, this forces service providers to cut corners. This leads to further negativity later on when the solution doesn’t deliver or the cheap equipment breaks.

The electric fence industry in South Africa is large with hundreds of companies offering installations in both city and rural areas – unofficially there are about 4 000 electric fence installers operating in the country. It’s a hard task to find homes or estates that don’t make use of electric fencing as part of their security solution.

This segment of the security market has also been under fire in the past for poor workmanship and poor quality, so industry leaders decided to do something about it themselves. Taking the lead in the industry and bypassing the politics around PSIRA by working with the Department of Labour.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Cliff Cawood about the rules governing electric fencing, primarily because these are not best practice guides the relevant associations support, but legislation from government with significant penalties.

This electric fencing legislation was passed through the Department of Labour (DoL) after lengthy discussions between the department and the electric fence associations. This probably contributed to the fast turnaround time.

Compliance required

As of October 2013, all electric fence installers needed to have been trained and passed an examination and be registered with the DoL to be able to legally install compliant fences. Their customers are to be provided with compliance certificates that only certified installers can issue guaranteeing that the fence is up to the SANS 10222-3 standard. Of course, anyone can install an electric fence, but it can only gain a certificate of compliance from a certified company.

For the customer, non-compliance can lead to legal trouble if someone is hurt from contact with the fence – even if that someone is a criminal. Insurance companies could also (supposedly) use non-compliance to deny a claim after a housebreaking incident. People can also no longer sell houses with an electric fence if they can’t produce a certificate of compliance (it’s different for residential complexes). If a fence was installed before these regulations took effect, the compliance certificate must be obtained from a registered person or company before the sale can take place.

Cawood says the legislation has made a large impact in the market with most installers taking the required steps to register and train their staff. He says about 600 installers were trained in 2103.

The electric fence manufacturing industry in South Africa is also subject to certain standards, ensuring that the equipment they produce is of the highest quality and meets standards.

The bottom line for electric fencing, according to Cawood is that the equipment used and the installation must be done according to the 10222-3 standard. Installers who fail to comply can be fined or even jailed, and suppliers supplying sub-standard equipment can have their equipment confiscated.

There are a number of certified training companies that will assist in certifying installers. Installers interested in finding out more can contact the people below.

Cliff Cawood: electricfenceskills@gmail.com

South African Electric Fence Installers Association (SAEFIA): info@saefia.com

Electric fencing Q&A

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Nemtek’s Garreth Osborne about the latest electric fence legislation and its implications.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How have the rules changed with respect to electric fencing?

Garreth Osborne: Not much has changed of late besides the earthing aspect: earth spikes must be 1,2 m long and placed very 30 m along the fence and three earth spikes must be installed closest to the energiser; lightning protection must be installed to protect the energiser and the energiser must have certification. Besides that, the industry has always had its set of standards, not to say that every installer worked according to the industry standards, but now it is regulation to do so.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What do buyers need to know in terms of getting an electric fence installed today?

Garreth Osborne: As from 1st October 2012, all new electric fences installed need a COC (Certificate of Compliance). In order to make the COC process quicker, I would ask the installer for their certification.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How can buyers ensure their installers are certified?

Garreth Osborne: The buyer would need to ask the installers for his DoL (Department of Labour) temporary or permanent licence. At present it is in the form of a certificate that has the DoL logo on it. Once the EWSETA website is up and running they will be registered online.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: For installers, where do they go to get the certification necessary to legally install electric fences?

Garreth Osborne: Please remember that anyone can still install an electric fence, but on completion the installer/person will need to certify the workmanship/fence according to the Standard SANS 10222-3. In order for the installers to certify themselves or to be found competent, they would need to contact a certified EWSETA training provider. (Nemtek is a certified EWSETA training provider.)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What happens to people who had a fence installed before the new rules came into effect? If they sell their house, do they need to “fix” their fence?

Garreth Osborne: Nothing is done until the property is sold, or the fence is rewired, energiser is changed or if the fence is lengthened. Then the fence will need to be upgraded to the new standard.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What happens if a buyer has an electric fence installed from someone not registered/certified?

Garreth Osborne: I would hope his workmanship is up to standard as per the regulation. He will need to provide the owner with a COC. If he cannot provide the COC then the installer would need to contact someone with the qualifications to do so.

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