Licensing of electrical workers and electrical contractors

The risks associated with an unsafe installation are high, so the work must be restricted to competent (licensed) workers. To emphasise the nature of the hazard, these installations can appear to operate well yet be unsafe. For example, an electrical installation can work without the safety system for many years, until a fault occurs that requires the safety system to prevent a dangerous situation arising.

A licensing system is in place to ensure only competent workers carry out electrical installing work.

In Western Australia, the Electricity (Licensing) Regulations 1991 provide that electrical work may only be carried out by persons with the appropriate electrical worker's licence (as issued by the Electrical Licensing Board) unless it is a type of work that is exempted by regulation.

Only those who meet competency standards are licensed. A disciplinary process is in place to ensure that only those competent remain as licensed persons. The competency standards cover work practices, equipment and installation. Those who breach regulations may:

  • be prosecuted in the courts;
  • lose their licence; and/or
  • have conditions placed on their licence.

EnergySafety and the Electrical Licensing Board have established Essential Performance Capabilities Required for Licensed Electricians, a set of 66 competencies as safety outcomes for licensing purposes. These are a nationally consistent set as agreed by the National Uniform Electrical Licensing Council.

Licences can be obtained for those trained:

  • in Western Australia;
  • in other Australian jurisdictions;
  • in New Zealand; or
  • overseas.

In Western Australia, there are more than 30,000 licensed electrical workers and electrical contractors. Electrical installing work must be carried out by a licensed electrical contractor, who in turn must employ licensed electricians.  Electricians hold an electricians licence which, if unrestricted, allows them to carry out electrical installing and electrical fitting work.  However, the electricians licence may be endorsed "Electrical Fitting Work Only" which allows the person to carry out only electrical fitting work.

The holder of an electrical contractor's licence must visibly display the licence number on all advertising for that electrical contracting business. This includes business cards, work vehicles and any advertisements. The licence number is preceded by "EC". Electrical contractors are not issued with a plastic licence card but are issued with a certificate of registration.  The certificate of registration is to be visibly displayed at the principal place of business.

What is electrical work?

Electrical work is defined in the Electricity (Licensing) Regulations 1991 and means work on electrical machines or instruments, on an electrical installation or on electrical appliances or equipment to which electricity is supplied or intended to be supplied, at a nominal pressure exceeding 50 volts alternating current or 120 volts direct current, whether or not the thing on which the work is being performed is part of, or is connected to or to be connected to, any distribution works or private generating plant and, where work is performed on any appliance, whether or not electricity is supplied or may be supplied thereto through an electric plug socket or socket outlet.

What types of electrical licences are issued?

In Western Australia, licences are issued for the following types of work:

  • Electrical contracting work - to electrical contractors.
  • Electrical installing work - to electricians. Electricians are licensed for up to 5 years.
  • Electrical training - to apprentices and trainees. An apprentice/trainee electrician will have a licence card issued for the period of the apprenticeship/traineeship. Training organisations and employers should ask to see the licence card to demonstrate that the apprentice is appropriately licensed to perform electrical work.
  • Restricted electrical work - to restricted electrical workers. Restricted electrical licences (RELs) are issued to persons other than electricians to legally carry out a "restricted" range of electrical tasks. The holder of a restricted electrical worker's licence is not permitted to carry out the installation or alterations to fixed wiring or to repair or replace items such as power points, lighting fittings etc.

Licence recognition

Licence Recognition is a website to make it easier for licensed tradespeople and authorities that issue licences to know what licence a worker is entitled to when applying for a licence in another state.  A user can look up a licence in another state or territory, based on the currently-held licence.  The website also has information on who to contact to apply for a licence.

Licence Recognition website www.licencerecognition.gov.au

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