Electrical safety in a multi-regulatory environment

29 June 2018

Transport Safety Victoria recognise that managing electrical safety may present challenges for some operators in understanding their obligations in a multi-regulatory environment.

TSV aims to clarify operator obligations and regulatory arrangements in this article.

In summary:

  • TSV has a cross-jurisdictional operational relationship with Energy Safe Victoria (ESV).
  • This enables the sharing of resources in response to incidents, conducting investigations, and sharing technical expertise.
  • Rail operators should make themselves aware of their obligations under the Electricity Safety Act.
  • TSV can assist you to contact appropriate staff at ESV.

Systems of Law

Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) is the independent statutory body responsible for administering various legislation including, but not limited to, the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (Vic) and the Electricity Safety (Installations) Regulations 2009 (Vic). See: Legislation administered by ESV.

Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) is the independent statutory body responsible for administering various legislation including, but not limited to, the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006 (Vic), and the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Regulations 2006 (Vic). See: Rail safety legislation.


Both ESV and TSV have separate and independent regulatory mandates and roles.

ESV’s objectives include:

  • Regulating the safety and technical compliance of energy conveyancing and supply, installations, appliances and pipelines.
  • Raising industry and community awareness of electricity, gas, and pipeline safety.

TSV’s objective is to independently seek the highest transport safety standards that are reasonably practicable, consistent with the transport systems vison and objectives under the Transport Integration Act 2010 (Vic). TSV oversees certain rail, bus and maritime transport activities within Victoria.

Difference between ESV and TSV

ESV oversees and administers the registration and licensing of electrical contractors and electrical workers, and monitors or accepts electrical safety practices in relation to the design, construction and maintenance of electricity and installations. ESV can take enforcement action to address non-compliance with their respective Act and Regulation. Rail operators will need to ensure they are complying with Electricity Safety Act 1998 and Regulations where applicable.

Extract from the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (Vic):

Register of electrical contractors

(4) A person carrying out electrical installation work must ensure that—

(a) all electrical circuits or electrical equipment handled in the course of that work are disconnected from the electricity supply; or

(b) adequate precautions are taken to prevent electric shock or other injury in the handling of electrical circuits or electrical equipment in the course of that work.

TSV is responsible for administering the accreditation of rail operators that enables the operation of a rail transport business in Victoria.

TSV monitors the rail operator’s safety management system (SMS) for managing safety risks and is responsible for taking enforcement action as authorised under the relevant Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006. It will respond to safety issues relating to the operation, design, maintenance and equipment of electrical infrastructure and the SMS of the rail transport operators.

Extract from Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006 (Vic):

Duties of rail transport operators

(1) A rail transport operator must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of the operator's railway operations.

(3) Without limiting subsection (1), a rail infrastructure manager must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable—

(b) that any design, construction, commissioning, use, installation, modification, maintenance, repair or decommissioning of the manager's rail infrastructure is done or carried out in a way that ensures the safety of railway operations;

TSV and ESV have cross-jurisdictional operational arrangements in place. These include how we respond to incidents, conduct investigations, share technical expertise, consult about proposed legal proceedings and, subject to professional privilege, share information.

ESV will on occasion lead an investigation into a railway related electrical safety incident, and may seek support from either TSV or WorkSafe to undertake legal proceedings.

Compliance inspection

What would happen?

TSV would inform the rail operator that a compliance inspection will take place, and that the focus of the inspection will be on their management of their electrical infrastructure. For example, the focus of the inspection might be specific to the area of risk management of the electrical infrastructure. TSV would notify the operator and request documentation that is incorporated into its SMS.

What would be expected?

Continuing with the risk management example, TSV would expect to be provided with a copy of:

  • The risk management policy.
  • Risk management procedure.
  • An extract of the risk register including all relevant electrical risks.

If you were an operator with overhead and substation assets you would have to provide all risks associated with these assets, including for example electrocution and fire risk events that may be caused by these assets.

Following TSV’s review of the documents provided, TSV would then undertake a site inspection; meeting on site to discuss the risk register, for example. We would ask the rail operator to ‘demonstrate’ how the risk event identified is being controlled. We would then ‘test’ the effectiveness of certain risk controls, by asking for a demonstration of the control being implemented. For example, if a risk control to substation fires includes periodical maintenance of switch gear, we would request to see a copy of the technical maintenance plan or procedure that details the maintenance activities carried out and the frequency that this occurs. We may then request to see evidence of these activities being completed.

On review of the maintenance procedures we may also inquire how certain electrical assets are maintained, and in accordance with which SMS instruction. Where off-the-shelf assets are used, TSV may consult with the suppliers or subject matter experts first to identify what their recommended maintenance activities are. This helps TSV understand possible safety critical failure modes and provides for further questioning. Finally, we may then sample the maintenance records to visually see the measurements being taken and to see if the measurements comply with written procedures. This process is one example of how TSV may go about establishing how effective the railway operator is at satisfying their obligations under the Act.


Where TSV deems it appropriate regulatory action, such as the issuing of a non-conformance or improvement notice, may be taken. This may specify a remedy to take to address the issue. For example, following the compliance inspection, TSV may have identified that the risk register is severely lacking in identified electrical risks. TSV may issue an improvement notice requiring the rail operator to review and revise the risk register until it satisfies the relevant rail legislation and regulations. Closing the improvement notice may require the operator to demonstrate all electrical risks to safety have been identified and mitigated so far as is reasonably practicable.

If TSV identifies an immediate risk to safety that cannot be resolved, then a prohibition notice will be issued.

View the Memorandum of Understanding between Energy Safe Victoria and Transport Safety Victoria