SABS: Industry to use independently verified, type-tested switchgear only

November 21st, 2019, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Vector

Both local and international standards have been amended since 2015 and this has created confusion in term of the compliance requirements of low-voltage switchgear. Inadequate testing and purchasing of untested products can have dire consequences to the supply of electricity.

The South African National Standards (SANS) that apply to switchgear have been adopted from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).  In October 2015, IEC standard 61439 replaced SANS 60439, which was the standard applicable to LV switchgear and controlgear assemblies.

The new standard allows for any one of the three types of design verification to indicate compliance to the standard (verification by type testing, verification by calculation or measurement and verification by design rules), whereas the previous standard required verification by testing without reference to all categories.

While SABS adopted IEC 61439 as SANS/IEC 61439, the testing requirements must also include the Wiring Code, SANS 10142-1, for South African use.

“Users of switchgear are faced with issues of exploding switchgear or malfunctioning equipment as a result of increased temperature rise. These scenarios can be reduced drastically by ensuring that switchgear is independently tested and verified. Verification by type testing subjects the equipment to performance limits or ‘destructive testing’, functional tests and, most importantly, includes temperature rise tests for indoor and outdoor applications.

Garth Strachan, acting SABS CEO, says “most manufacturers prefer to conduct verification by calculation or by design rules as this is cheaper and does not have to be conducted in a laboratory.  The critical gap is that these tests exclude destructive testing of the equipment and testing to South African conditions.”

SABS has held several consultative engagements with the electrotechnical industry to raise concerns over inadequate testing of switchgear.  In October 2018, SABS reintroduced partial testing or testing to customer specific requirements to enable type switchgear testing.

He said independent switchgear type testing in South Africa via accredited laboratories may be an additional expense for manufacturers but it will provide assurance to switchgear users that the equipment is safe to use, can withstand South African climatic conditions and is functional.

Switchgear users are advised to review all the test reports provided by switchgear manufacturers to ensure that the tests are conducted by accredited laboratories and to ensure that type testing accredited laboratories is provided.

SABS, through its National Electrical Test Facility (NETFA), which is accredited by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), is capable of conducting verification by type testing on a range of switchgear equipment.

Contact Roshelle Pillay, SABS, Tel 012 428-6878,

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