Barker Insurance

Generators: Safety first


With load shedding and winter chills well underway, the use of residential generators is, once again, in full force. However, many end-users perform illegal electrical installations when they opt for alternative power supplies during power outages. Any generator installation must comply with the South African National Standard (SANS 10142-1:2003) for the wiring of a property. This applies to both portable, as well as permanent installations. It is critical that the electrical connections are undertaken by a qualified electrician and an Electrical Compliance Certificate (“COC”) is issued.

This is considered a legal requirement and failure to comply with these regulations and standards could lead to prosecution, or invalidate your insurance claim(s) should it be confirmed that a fire or injury is caused by the incorrect installation and/or connection of a generator.

For various reasons, a body corporate may insist that unit owners install their own individual generators, and make provision for this in the conduct rules of the scheme, subject to the final consent of the trustees, in order to allow for the trustees to approve and confirm:

1. The placement of the generator: Only use a portable generator in a well-ventilated area, due to the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the engine exhaust. Never run generators in garages, under carports or near open windows. In addition, generators should be housed in a soundproof room to avoid noise pollution. Finally, ensure the exhaust is higher than the house roof, so fumes can be carried away by the wind, eliminating complaints from neighbours.

2. The type of generator: Any generator installation must comply with the
South African National Standard (SANS 10142-1:2003) for the wiring of the premises. This applies to both portable, as well as permanent installations.

3. Confirmation that the installation complies with National Standards and safety requirements, with regards to wiring: Choose a provider registered in accordance with the Electrical Machinery Regulations to do the electrical installation. The registered provider can be an installation electrician (IE) or master installation electrician (MIE), registered as a contractor with the Department of Labour. The registered person must issue a Certificate of Compliance upon completion of the installation.

4. The times of the day or night the generator may be used;

5. Confirmation that the maintenance and repair of the generator will always rest with the unit owner;

6. Confirmation that the obligation to insure the generator will lie with the unit owner: It is critical that unit owners notify their broker and insurer that they have installed a generator. This will then be indicated in their policy.

7. Approval as to where fuel will be stored and the amounts of fuel that may be stored: Always refuel the generator when it is not running and never store the fuel near the generator. Spare fuel must be stored in steel containers and in a safe place, far from the generator. Not more than 50 litres of petrol or 200 litres of diesel (other than the fuel in the tank of the generator) is permitted to be stored inside the building.

Safety tips to prevent injury or damage when using a generator:

To avoid shock and electrocution:

    • operate the generator under a well-ventilated, open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface, free from any contact with water,
    • dry your hands before touching the generator, if wet.

    Wiring and Extension Cables

      • If using a portable generator which has not been wired into your premises by a qualified electrician, use only heavy-duty extension cords that are exclusively designed for outdoor use.
      • Use extension cords that are long enough to allow the generator to be placed outdoors and far away from windows, doors, and vents to the home or to other structures that could be occupied.
      • Ensure that the entire length of each cord is free of cuts or tears.
      • Protect the cord from getting pinched or crushed if it passes through a window or doorway.
      • Never power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet - a practice known as "back feeding." This is extremely dangerous and presents a possible electrocution risk to external workers and neighbours served by the same transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices.

      References: CIA Building Insurance Specialists and ES Brokers