1878  Electricity is used in Kimberly.  There is little understanding of the dangers.  Within a few years several towns in SA install generators.  There are no electrical regulations, resulting in many accidents and fires.

1939  Due to the increase of electrical installation been installed in many SA cities the number of accidents and electrocutions increased dramatically.

The government reacts by promulgating the ELECTRICAL WIREMAN and CONTRACTORS ACT.

This act requires every person doing electrical installations to undergo tests and training as an interim arrangement. New incumbents had to enter into a five year apprenticeship and to work under the constant supervision of a “qualified electrician” known as an “Electrical Wireman” for five years.

The electrical contractor, i.e. the business owner, also had to be an Electrical Wireman and had to go annually and in person to register his business with every the Local Authority in whose jurisdiction he worked. Each Local Authority had their own by-laws therefore every installation differed in every region, town and city. This was very costly for everyone.

The contractor also had to go in person to register every installation regardless of size or complexity with the Local Authority before it was commenced with.  He then had to make an appointment for inspection with the Local Inspector to pass the installation before it could be connected to the supply.  Each Local Inspector interpreted the by-laws differently and many of them assumed an importance which surpassed their position or authority and often solicited favors to pass the installation. This situation worsened in time and cost the country millions.

It was a statutory requirement that Local Authorities had to inspect 100% of all installations. This may have been possible in 1939, but by the 1970’s it had become impossible for every installation to be inspected.  This resulted in the contractors registering only those installations that needed a new supply.

1975/6 Wiehan Commission.  About 1975/6 the government establishes the Wiehan commission, the purpose of which is to undertake a study of the Labour Relations Act. This results in the repeal of the Electrical Wireman and Contractors Act.  The functions of the board are transferred to “Department of Manpower”.  Unfortunately, the system does not improve.

1979/80.  The chief inspector calls a meeting of the electrical industry. The purpose he says is to stop the abuse of power and exploitation of users and others by electrical inspectors and to seek a way forward for the industry.  He appoints a delegation made up of the Department of Labour (DoL), South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU), ESKOM and the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), and the delegation visits seven countries. The chief inspector enters into numerous discussions with all role players. The proposal is made by the Chief Inspector to allow the removal of the power from the Local Authorities and the establishment of a work group to come up with a proposal to achieve this end.

In 1982/3 a survey was undertaken as to determine as to how many installations were in fact tested and inspected, this showed that the figure was only 12%. This highlighted the abuse of power and also the ineffective processes in place

1983 – Establishing the ECB

The Chief Inspector requests industry to establish a board based on the principals of the National Inspection Council as seen in the UK.  It must be a body “not for gain” and it must allow membership of all “stake holder organisations” at  no cost to them. They in turn must agree to serve for free.  A board was established and named the “ELECTRICAL CONTRACTING BOARD of SA”

The Functions of the Board were: 

  1. To establish a national umbrella body that would act as a customer champion and allow the membership of different organisations to participate with criteria acceptable to all that would benefit all “stake holders” but that would not interfere other than to ensure fair play.
  2. To establish “SECTOR BOARDS” to permit different sectors of industry to  participate in the affairs of the industry in its broadest sense while ensuring fair play.
  3. To make rules to ensure that all stake holders would benefit to improve their understanding of the industry and that of the consumer.
  4. To participate on various bodies such as the AMEU, SABS, DOL, DOE. Universities, Financial institutions SAIEE, etc.
  5. To establish a diploma to benefit the industry in both administrative affairs and technical proficiency.


The ECB was written in to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, by government and tasked with the statutory function of:

  1. Contractor registration at no cost to the government and with the future registration of registered persons. 
  2. To design and manage a document against which an electrical installation shall be measured for safety.
  3. To implement training programs to educate all stake holders in the new regulations, responsibilities and requirements of electrical contractors, registered persons, manufacturers, suppliers of materials, property owners and others.
  4. To consider a method of policing for the future.

1998/9 – Around the turn of the millennium the Department of Labour decided to establish Approved Inspection Authorities (AIA’s). To do this they had to change the Occupational Health & Safety Act to remove the ECB from the regulations and replaced with the Department of Labour.

2009 – Revised regulations are promulgated and the ECB is removed from the Occupational Health & Safety Act. The status quo remained until the 1st of September 2012 when the Department of Labour official took over registrations. Unfortunately, the none of new regulations are being complied with.

Growing the Umbrella

In 2010, the electrical manufacturing and supply industry established ERIC, a body to counter the flood of cheap imported products entering the country. Many of the ERIC board members served on the ECB board and used the same administration staff. As a result of the change to the ECB’s function over the years, and loss of statutory contractor registration in 2012, it was proposed in 2014, to rebrand and combine the functions of ECB and ERIC, under the acronym ECB as it is a well known brand name, but to change the name to the “ELECTRICAL CONFORMANCE BOARD” (ECB), as it now included the functions previously under taken by ERIC.

The revised ECB constitution permits all conforming entities e.g electrical manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, distributors, designers, installers, and others who agree to the conditions of membership, which includes distributing, designing and installation of products conforming to the relevant regulations and standards when and where required, to become “LISTED / CONFORMING MEMBERS” and to use the ECB logo and motto, “SAFETY THROUGH CONFORMANCE”, on all correspondence / marketing material.

The regulations contained in the “OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH and SAFETY ACT” (Act 85 of 1993) are explicit in that they state that all electrical equipment, manufactured, imported, advertised for sale or sold and intended to be installed in an electrical installation, shall comply to the standards. As mentioned previously the ECB includes all stakeholders in its broadest sense as members. The purpose is not only to make electricity safer for all, but to assist in leveling the playing fields by applying the statutory regulations and making them work for all and consequently benefiting all genuine South African and foreign manufacturers and importers. This task can’t be done alone. It must be a joint venture between “GOVERNMENT and the PRIVATE SECTOR”.

The ECB is in an ideal position to undertake this task as when it talks to the regulator, it does so on behalf of all ECB stake holders and with the backing of the consumer. Therefore fingers cannot be pointed at any one company or individual.

Current ECB Functions

  • The ECB handles more than 12,000 call cases per annum.  These come from all quarters. If they can be answered on the phone by staff members, at no cost to our listed member and the general public. We assist in technical as well as standard complaint issues.
  • The ECB represents the customer interests at the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) main committees and working group meetings.  It is at these forums that standards and codes are discussed and created.  Currently we serve on ± 20 different workgroup committees meeting several times per year. The decisions of these committees affect all stake holders as most of these standards are normatively referenced in the SANS 10142-1 / 2 Code of Practice or are a requirement of the OHS Act.
  • Our Technical Director, Tony McDonald, has represented the electrical installation industry since 1972 at SABS and since 1980 as an SA delegate to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
  • The ECB saw the need for safety regulation and control in respect of photo voltaic (solar) and other renewable energy sources and was the body that took over the organisation of the code development regarding renewable energy installations and standards development. The ECB identified the urgent need for the establishment of such a workgroup and campaigned for the re-establishment of the failed SABS committee and was successful in this regard by approaching the CSIR, who managed to obtain US Aid support to fund this initiative. The ECB is still the secretariat of this committee.
  • The SABS 10142-1 committee is the main committee that checks the correctness of the standard writing before it is adopted and included in the SABS 10142 family of standards and becomes a statutory standard. The ECB is not compensated for this or any of the other committees on which it serves.
  • The ECB was the organisation appointed to do the statutory function on  behalf of the SA public at no cost to Government and with no subsidy from government. We still attempt to perform this role today. As the ECB’s main income was derived from electrical contractor registration and sale of CoC’s it was in a position to offer a free service to all. With the removal of the ECB from the Act with no support from government, the ECB struggles to continue.
  • Without the ECB, there will be no one to turn to to represent the consumer’s interests and to support the over-arching needs of the industry. This leaves the electrical sector fragmented and in danger of miscommunication between all of the many industries the electrical sector services.

The State of the Electrical Sector

The SA Fire Protection Association tells us that 35% of all fires have an electrical origin. The damage currently amounts to R3bn per annum, rising from only R1bn since 2009. 

What is the cause? 

Generally poor workmanship, non-compliant materials available on the SA market due to the lack of policing.  Incorrect choice of materials, lack of understanding that electrical installations have to be correctly designed and therefore the installers have to be correctly educated and trained  in the design of electrical installations. 

The ECB is the only organisation in the country fighting to ensure clarity, safety and inter-communication between all industry sectors. We do this with volunteers, little income and support. We appreciate all of those who contribute and donate to the ECB. As electrical products and technology penetration increases in the country we hope more and more people will stand behind us to try and ensure the South African public remain safe.