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News Service 16 – Electrician’s testing competence questioned; VET Skills Commissioner Bill 2020; Natural refrigerant skills shortage; Neca seeks electrical trainer; Changes to NVETR Act; Smart & Skilled update 103; Safety News; SIRA Grant; Research–solar hydrogen

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News Service this week covers:

  1. CAN THE CURRENT POOL OF ELECTRICIANS AND GRADUATING APPRENTICES SAFELY AND COMPETENTLY TEST AN ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION TO CURRENT AS/NZS 3000?
  2. NATIONAL SKILLS COMMISSIONER BILL 2020 BEFORE THE SENATE
  3. NATURAL REFRIGERANTS – PAVING THE WAY TO LOWER GLOBAL WARMING POTENTIAL (GWP)
  4. NECA TRAINING LOOKING FOR ELECTRICAL TRAINERS
  5. CHANGES TO THE NATIONAL VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING REGULATOR ACT – 1 JULY 2020
  6. SMART AND SKILLED UPDATE No. 103 – 23 June 2020
  7. SAFEWORK NSW – SOLAR INSTALLATION – VIDEO SAFETY ALERT
  8. SAFEWORK NSW TAKES OVER TRAFFIC CONTROL TRAINING SCHEME – 1 JULY 2020
  9. GREAT INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO – LOOKUPANDLIVE.COM.AU
  10. SIRA GRANT PROGRAM – RECOVERY BOOST $50 000 GRANT ROUND II OPEN NOW!!
  11. ANU RESEARCHERS DEVELOP DIRECT SOLAR HYDROGEN PRODUCTION

1. CAN THE CURRENT POOL OF ELECTRICIANS AND GRADUATING APPRENTICES SAFELY AND COMPETENTLY TEST AN ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION TO CURRENT AS/NZS 3000?

There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence suggesting there is a deficit amongst electricians and graduating apprentices of the competency to understand and safely perform a range of required electrical installation tests in accordance with AS/NZS 3000 and subordinate standards.  If indeed this is proven to be true, then 1) this is of serious concern for workers, consumers and the public and needs further investigation to identify the root cause, and 2) as an industry, we must look for solutions.  These solutions may require a series of structural changes to ensure:

  • those issued with an electrical license protect the integrity of the license and what it stands for,
  • administrators ensure the risk to issuing a licence to protect the public and consumers is mitigated against through due diligence processes, including possible testing of potential applicants, as recommended by the NSW Public Accountability Committee (PAC final report 6 April 2020), that confirms a licensee is indeed a competent person at the outset and subsequently, during the life of the license (i.e. renewal time);
  • training organisations registered to award a qualification linked to the electrical licence ensure graduates are verified as competent to the standard of performance specified in the relevant Training Package qualification and units of competency (e.g. Electrotechnology Training Package); and
  • regulators ensure they carry out their regulatory mandate of monitoring and prosecuting licensees who act incompetently through defects or non compliant work, or are breach of their licensing scope (e.g. failure to submit a Certificates of Compliance for Electrical Work (CCEWs) notices in accordance with the law).

Testing is a critical and essential competency field of work of a competent electrician.  It is so important for ensuring an electrical installation system (e.g. installed in domestic, commercial or industrial premises) and its component parts and protection mechanisms respond and perform as intended.  This critical competency, augments the fundamental competencies deployed and performed in the electrical trade, such as installing, terminating, checking, repairing and/or replacing, modifying, commissioning, maintaining, and assembly of electrical installation systems, apparatus, equipment, components, devices as well as accessories.  Closely aligned to testing is troubleshooting, solving problems and designing in accordance with specifications. 

It is fair to assert that electrical contractors/electricians, when they complete a job (e.g. an install or modification) they must ensure and be confident that it works and is protected as intended and is safe to use, both now and into the future. This means they must ensure that:

  • The design complies with relevant standards and specifications,
  • The installation follows the design specification,
  • The equipment installed meets Australian standards and any applicable rules,
  • The installation associated with each switchboard or distribution board worked on has been tested and proven isolated where required, i.e. all the required tests have been conducted,
  • They are aware that both the contractor as well as the licensed electrician are responsible for the installation under the law, and
  • Appropriate documentation (including recording of test results) has been completed and issued/submitted in accordance with the law.

If an electrical contractor/electrician wants to be protected from possible litigation if something goes wrong with the installation in the future, the best defence is to retain a record of the actual test results.

In light of these issues the Electrical Safety Project (ESP), reported in previous News Service issues, is working to highlight the above matters and more, and explore ways to encourage and support improvements that could be implemented to enhance the quality and integrity of the electrical licensing regime in NSW, as well as competency of electricians in the industry. 

To that end and in relation to testing, the ESP has developed a draft protocol for consideration and use by electrical contractors and electricians that augment the base requirements set out in CCEWs.  A copy of the protocol is attached.  It provides a framework for recording the test results, designed to balance ‘practicality’ with and completeness. The ‘Test Report’ protocol form is also a good reminder of what tests need to be completed.  It is most likely to be paper based – filled in as tests are completed on the job.  It could also be developed as an electronic record.

It is suggested that the ‘Test Report’ protocol has a much closer alignment with the requirements detailed in the Home Building Act 1989 and Gas & Electricity Act 2017, AS/NZS 3000 and AS/NZS 3017 than the current version of the paper-based CCEW, used in NSW.

We invite you to comment on the validity and usefulness of the testing protocol and help us, as we continue to promote and work towards improving the quality and safety of electrical work practices in the industry.  Please feel free to forward or submit any suggested changes/improvements to the test protocol.

Please provide your feedback by Friday, 10 July 2020 COB.   Thank you in anticipation. 

For more information visit the ESP website:  www.esproject.com.au


2. NATIONAL SKILLS COMMISSIONER BILL 2020 BEFORE THE SENATE

The National Skills Commissioner Bill 2020 is going through its final stages and will soon be promulgated.  The purpose of the Bill, as outlined in the Parliamentary Library Bills Digest is, to establish the National Skills Commissioner (the Commissioner). A Commissioner has been in place in an interim capacity since October 2019.

The Digest states that, “The National Skills Commissioner Act (when enacted) will provide for the Minister with responsibility for vocational education and training (VET) to appoint a Commissioner to advise the Minister or Secretary of the relevant department, currently the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), about:

  • Australia’s current, emerging and future workforce needs,
  • VET pricing,
  • public and private return on VET investment,
  • VET system performance, and
  • issues affecting Australian and international labour markets.

It will also require the Commissioner to produce an annual report to the Minister outlining Australia’s current, emerging and future workforce skills needs, which will be tabled in Parliament and published.

The Bill does not:

  • confer any authority on the Commissioner to set VET course fees,
  • impose any specific requirements regarding consultation, collaboration, or coordination with existing state and territory or Commonwealth VET bodies, or
  • make any reference to the Commissioner’s independence.”

An interesting observation worthy of review is the intended function of the Commissioner, which sets out at Clause 7, the following:

  • to provide advice to the Minister or to the Secretary in relation to:
  • Australia’s current, emerging and future workforce skills needs,
  • the development of efficient prices for VET courses,
  • the public and private return on government investment in VET qualifications,
  • the performance of Australia’s system for providing VET,
  • issues affecting the state of the Australian and international labour markets,
  • to, in relation to the matters listed above, in addition to advising the Minister or Secretary:
  • inform the public about these matters,
  • collect, analyse, share and publish data and other information about these matters to inform policy development and program delivery, and
  • any other function that is conferred on the Commissioner by the rules, by this Act or by any other law of the Commonwealth, or is incidental or conducive to the performance of the above functions.

The concluding comments in the Digest represent an interesting overview of the VET reform underway:

“This Bill proposes to give effect to the 2019–20 Budget commitment to create a National Skills Commission, by establishing a National Skills Commissioner, supported by advisory committees.

As outlined in the background to this Bills Digest, statutory skills advisory bodies have a long history in Australia, although they have had varying degrees of independence and levels of responsibility. The model proposed in the Bill stands out as the first time a single commissioner structure has been proposed. This approach is broadly consistent with the changes proposed in the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020, which would see ASQA’s current three-Commissioner leadership structure replaced with a stand-alone National VET Regulator/CEO, supported by a ten-member Advisory Council66.

Stakeholder consultation suggests that in a crowded administrative landscape with a large number of existing VET bodies, the Commissioner’s success will depend in large part on their capacity to work effectively across stakeholder groups67.”

For more information on the background and history of national skills commissions in Australia download a copy of the paper from: PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY BILLS DIGEST

66. For more information on this Bill, see H Ferguson, National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020, Bills digest, 91, 2019–20, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2020.

67. DESSFB, Co-designing the National Skills Commission: discussion paper, DESSFB, Canberra, September 2019.


3. NATURAL REFRIGERANTS – PAVING THE WAY TO LOWER GLOBAL WARMING POTENTIAL (GWP)

CCN reports of some emerging good work by Woolworths and Grosvenor Engineering Group to upskill their workforce in the use of natural refrigerants that in turn delivering lower GWP and more energy efficient HVACR systems.  The article states, “Just last week Woolworths undertook training at the Superior Training Centre, west of Sydney and Grosvenor Engineering Group will be upskilling 400 technicians over the next 12 months.

Training and education will be critical in the next few years as most of the refrigerants that technicians trained on will no longer exist.”

With over 10,000 refrigeration and air conditioning technicians in NSW alone, the need for upskilling to cover off on a range of new refrigerants entering the market is enormous, urgent and very important to ensure safety of the installed units, consumers and the environment.  The article by Sandra Rossi reports that “Grosvenor Engineering Group (Grosvenor) is the first major technical services company in Australia to introduce a dedicated natural refrigerant technology service for HVACR systems.

Grosvenor currently employs over 800 staff, 400 of which are HVAC technicians and will train all of them in natural refrigerant technology within the next 12 months.”

The group’s managing director, Nicholas Lianos, said Grosvenor staff have been observing market trends overseas and the exponential growth in environmentally friendly HVACR solutions which deliver significant energy savings.

“The technology that underpins the ability to achieve these outcomes is the use of natural refrigerants such as hydrocarbons,” Lianos said.

“Hydrocarbon technology offers significant benefits including reduced energy and maintenance costs; diminished carbon emissions and the solution can be delivered as a service, negating capital expenditure.”

Lianos said market research found a gap in the Australian market for technicians that can safely handle, install and maintain natural refrigerant solutions.”

The important take away is there is an looming skill shortage and skills gap of existing technicians that need to be trained and upskilled in working with new-generation refrigerants.  The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) has conducted a survey in the industry, with of over 900 respondents sharing their views.  75% of those were technicians.  The study found, “overwhelming support for a national licensing model that covers all refrigerants.  A big concern was safety, “with fears untrained technicians are working with new-generation refrigerants without the correct training.”

For instance, one of the emerging new refrigerants R32, is a f is a flammable refrigerant, and it is imperative that all technicians need to be trained in working and handling it.  This type of refrigerant is not suitable for storage facilities and factories that are not equipped for Hazardous zones.  It is not only a hazardous and controlled substance, care has to be taken to ensure the storage of refrigeration and air conditioning units with R32 is in a place that is specifically cordoned off and designated/marked as a hazardous zone.  A group of refrigeration and air conditioning units filled with R32 stored together in a closed environment and not marked off as a hazardous zone, breaches safety standards. It exposes workers, consumers and the premises to a potential incident.  Training in handing and working as well as correct storage observance are an imperative for this class of refrigerant.

Additionally, in relation to other refrigerants AIRAH stated, in the CCN article, “There are currently around 100,000 licence holders in Australia. Licences are mandatory for purchasing, handling and working on systems that use synthetic (CFC/HCFC/HFC) gases.

No Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) license is required, however, to work with natural refrigerants such as carbon dioxide, ammonia or hydrocarbons, or the new generation of synthetic refrigerants called hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).”

The industry is facing huge transitional issues as new refrigerants enter the market, and if technicians are not equipped with the right skills both contractors, the community and the environment will be effected.  It should be noted as the article points out, “Almost a quarter of all electricity generated in Australia is used to power HVACR systems, and around 80 per cent of this electricity is generated using fossil fuels. Through its energy use, HVACR contributes significantly to the country’s emissions.”  Appropriately trained and competent technicians can help effect the transition to new refrigerants and make for more efficient and reduced cost of energy, safer environment and contribute to lower emissions through lower GWP rated HVACR systems. 

It looks like Woolworths and Grosvenor Engineering Group are leading the industry in this regard by ensuring their technicians are upskilled.  They have chosen to use an RTO to support them, such as Superior Training Centre (STC) based in western Sydney.

For more information on these very important issue affecting the HVACR industry, visit the links of two most recent good articles by Sandra Rossi, Editor, Climate Control News (CCN):

  1. AIRAH proposes a model for change, and
  2. New natural refrigerant service

4. NECA TRAINING LOOKING FOR ELECTRICAL TRAINERS

Neca Training has advertised for an electrical trainer to join its growing business.  It states in its job advert, “Previous training experience is not necessary as long as you have a passion for teaching others and broad experience in the electrical industry. This role would suit someone that wants to get off the tools and move into a training/mentoring role.”

Essential criteria for the job include:

  • Electrical licence in any Australian State or Territory
  • Experience in the electrical trade covering a broad range of skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate clearly both orally and in writing
  • Ability to work with minimal supervision
  • Cope well with a changing environment
  • Sound knowledge of workplace safety requirements

If you share the passion of imparting the trade to others, have what it takes and are looking for a great career move, then consider becoming an electrical trainer and help the industry grow its professional teaching and training pool to support the industry.

For more information and link to the advert go to:  ELECTRICAL TRAINER POSITION AT NECA


5. CHANGES TO THE NATIONAL VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING REGULATOR ACT – 1 JULY 2020

ASQA advise that it has established a new section on its website related to legislative changes.  Its first article outlines the changes that will come into effect on 1 July 2020 as a result of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Act 2020.  It states, “these changes have been made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the legislation. They will also ensure ASQA can encourage and promote a quality VET system to benefit students, industry and RTOs.”

Further, “As we move to support providers through fair, transparent and effective regulation, the VET system needs a legislative framework that enhances student outcomes and supports modern regulation. These changes will strengthen regulation of the VET sector to improve the quality of training and ensure students are protected.”

Key changes that will follow are:

  • registration processes for RTOs,
  • processes for the accreditation of VET-accredited courses,
  • procedures for reviewing regulatory decisions,
  • RTO compliance requirements, and
  • sharing and publishing information.

For more information visit the ASQA website at:  LEGISLATIVE CHANGES – NVETR ACT


6. SMART AND SKILLED UPDATE No. 103 – 23 June 2020

Please find attached Smart and Skilled Update No. 103, which covers the following:

  1. Training Needs Identification (TNI) Part Qualification Funding for Priority Skills Sets – Bushfire Recovery and COVID-19 Response
  1. TNI requests for single unit infection control Priority Skills Sets (HLTINF001 and HLTINFCOV001)
  2. Health and Community Services Priority Skills Set available under the NSW Bushfire Recovery and COVID-19 Response is identical to the Commonwealth Government’s Entry into Care Roles Skills Set (CHCSS00114)
  3. Training Activity Data Reporting Close Off for the 2019-20 Activity Period: 30 June 2020

For more information visit the Smart and Skills section of Training Services NSW website: SMART AND SKILLED


7. SAFEWORK NSW – SOLAR INSTALLATION – VIDEO SAFETY ALERT

SafeWork NSW has issued a safety alert supported by a video in relation to solar panel installation.  It asks and states respectively:

  • Did you know that solar panel installations are the cause of many incidents in the NSW construction industry?

If you install solar systems, there are new videos for tips on how to keep your workers safe.”

Falls and electrical risks are the two biggest killers in the construction industry and installing solar systems includes both risks.

In 2018, a 19-year-old apprentice was killed after falling through the roof of a house while installing solar panels. In a separate incident, an electrician received serious burns to his face and hands from an arc flash explosion while connecting a newly installed solar system.

There are two new video safety alerts for workers who do solar installation, that give valuable information on electrical risks and falls while installing solar systems, and how to avoid serious injury or even death.

Find out more about how to reduce electrical risks and watch the alert here.
(Note: Electrocution is the second leading cause of traumatic fatalities in construction in NSW. Watch SafeWork NSW’s safety video to learn about managing electrical risks during a solar installation – SEE VIDEO).

Find out more about avoiding the risk of falls and watch the alert here (Working at Heights).


8. SAFEWORK NSW TAKES OVER TRAFFIC CONTROL TRAINING SCHEME – 1 JULY 2020

SafeWork NSW reports in its latest ‘SafeWork Wrap’ news that it will be taking on responsibility for the Traffic Control Training (TCT) scheme when it transfers over from Transport NSW on 1 July 2020.

It states that, “From this date, workers undertaking any work on or near a public road in NSW will be required to hold the relevant:

  • SafeWork NSW Traffic Control Work Training (TCWT) card, and
  • Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Traffic Control Training Photo Card.

The changes mean workers across a range of industries will require one of the above cards, including workers in the retail, manufacturing or transport industries, as well as the more traditional road and construction industries. Exemptions apply to some types of workers.”

For more information visit: TRAFFIC CONTROLLER TRAINING


9. GREAT INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO – LOOKUPANDLIVE.COM.AU

Ergon Energy have produced a very interesting and important safety video that is worth exploring its principles of operation.  Whilst it is applicable to Queensland, there are some good ideas espoused therein and worthy of knowing about it.

In the video, Community Safety Specialist Glen Cook demonstrates the powerline mapping tool at www.lookupandlive.com.au.

To view the video go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MNInpkjd8M&feature=youtu.be

For more information visit the lookupandlive website at: https://ergon.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=5a53f6f37db84158930f9909e4d30286


10. SIRA GRANT PROGRAM – RECOVERY BOOST $50 000 GRANT ROUND II OPEN NOW!!

The NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) are funding a program called Recovery Boost under the NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces strategy. The program aims to inspire innovative solutions to gather evidence on what works to improve mental health recovery at work. Grants of up to $50,000 are on offer for individuals and organisations with great ideas to create positive change.

Recovery Boost round II is now open!

Pop over to the website to check out the program guide and the webinar modules developed by The Social Research Centre to help you to develop your application. https://www.mentalhealthatwork.nsw.gov.au/mentally-healthy-workplaces/recover-at-work/recovery-boost-$50,000-funding-program

StepTimelineAdditional Information
Expressions of Interest Open25th June 2020 – 6th August 2020Round Two of Recovery Boost will be open on the 25th of June.
Submit Expression of Interest25th June 2020 – 6th August 2020A program guide for round two will be available on the 25th of June, please review the program guide carefully prior to submitting an expression of interest.
Submit Application formLate August 2020 – October 2020SIRA will review the expressions of interest and invite expressions of interest that have met the funding requirements to submit a full application.   If successful during the expression of interest step, you will be asked to submit a full application.
Selection of successful applicationsNovember 2020 – December 2020A Selection Committee, comprising of mental health advocates and people with lived experience of mental health issues will review all applications submitted and select successful applications for funding.
Announcement of successful recipientsDec-2020SIRA will announce the successful recipients of Recovery Boost round two.

Your assistance in sharing this update with your members is greatly appreciated. For more information visit: RECOVERY BOOST GRANT


11. ANU RESEARCHERS DEVELOP DIRECT SOLAR HYDROGEN PRODUCTION

The Australian Manufacturing Forum reports that “scientists at the Australian National University have demonstrated the direct production of hydrogen within solar PV cells, a development that could potentially bring down the cost of renewable hydrogen production.

Thirteen researchers, led by Siva Krishna Karuturi and Heping Shen published their results in a paper in Advanced Energy Journal titled “Over 17% Efficiency Stand‐Alone Solar Water Splitting Enabled by Perovskite‐Silicon Tandem Absorbers”.

The researchers reported they had achieved direct solar to hydrogen efficiencies of close to 20 per cent using low cost semiconductors.

A short cut producing cheaper hydrogen from water directly in such an advanced solar PV system as envisaged by the ANU researchers could be a major breakthrough in creating a hydrogen economy.”

For more information visit the @AUManufacturing website article: DIRECT SOLAR HYDROGEN PRODUCTIONA copy of the paper’s abstract can be accessed from the Wiley Online Library: Over 17% Efficiency Stand‐Alone Solar Water Splitting Enabled by Perovskite‐Silicon Tandem Absorbers