Cabling competence: Are electricians qualified to install underground and aerial cabling?
The installation of underground and aerial cable is specialist work. Ian Millner talks to Paul Skelton about how a half-day of training can prevent legal and financial shocks.
These days, it’s not possible for electricians to be successful if they don’t have open cabler registration.
That’s the thinking of Ian Millner, industry consultant and founder of the training provider Milcom Communications.
And he’s not wrong. As the line between electrician and cabler continues to blur, a growing expectation is put on contractors to do everything from electrical work to communications, HVAC and solar.
Given this, there is a chance that some electrical contractors aren’t actually licensed to do some of the things they offer to customers – for example, aerial and underground cabling.
“An electrician is supposed to have aerial and underground cabling installation among their skills,” Ian says.
“This is because service leads, or cabling within premises, can be aerial or underground.
“Electricians dig trenches and lay cable, but their training doesn’t exactly go into how they should do it. They are not taught how to install underground pits and pipes, how to ensure aerial cable is adequately supported, or how to take into account things like span, wind velocity and environmental conditions.
“Further, they haven’t learned about hauling cable – they just figure it out as they go.”
So, do electricians need additional training to gain specialist competencies under the telecommunications training package?
“There are two ways of answering this question,” Ian says.
“The first is by comparing the requirements of the aerial and underground competencies in the ICT training package and the training an electrician must complete in the UEE30811 qualification.
“The second is by looking at what the electrical regulator deems the ‘essential performance capability requirements for licensed electricians’.
“Regardless of which way you look at it, it can be suggested that a qualified electrician who has completed a competency-based training course to gain open cabler registration does not meet the requirements for automatically being awarded the aerial and underground competencies.
“They will need to undertake further training.”
That said, Ian believes the solution could be as simple as a half-day course that is offered by most registered training organisations.
“According to the ACMA’s Cabling Provider Rules, any cabling on the customer side of the network boundary must be installed by a registered cabler.
“Further, if the cabling being installed is structured cabling, coaxial or fibre, or aerial or underground cabling, the registered cabler must have completed additional training. This needs to be done under the ICT or the UEE package, as specified in Pathways to cabling registration.”
Specifically, Ian points to differences between the UEENEEF112A/113A competencies in the UEE30811 training package and the ICTCBL307/308/309/310 competencies to highlight an electrician’s need for further training.
“By looking at the composition of the competencies required by the ACMA, these being ICTCBL307 Install underground enclosure and conduit, ICTCBL308 Install underground cable, ICTCBL309 Construct aerial cable support and ICTCBL310 Install aerial cable, it’s clear they aren’t comparable with the UEE training package.”
Table 1 shows the performance criteria (PC) for each of the ICT competencies. Table 2 shows the PC for the UEE30811 qualification.
“As you can see, the UEE description is significantly shorter,” Ian says.
“The fundamentals are the same – students learn to prepare to perform the work, do the work and complete the work, but if we expand the PCs for each, you can really see the difference.”
Table 3 shows the PC from ‘Element 1’ of both competencies. Although the wording is quite different, the intent seems to be the same. Specifically, they aim to teach students how to:
• prepare for the given work while being cognisant of OH&S, site location, cable route, etc;
• communicate with appropriate personnel as required; and
• comply with any and all necessary regulations (AS/CA S009 and AS/NSZ3000, for example).
“And, by drilling down into UEENEEG103A and looking at the ‘required skills and knowledge’, the unit specifies ‘T5 aerial cabling’ and ‘T6 underground cabling’.
“So at face value it seems that an electrician could be awarded the aerial and underground specialist competencies.
“But when you look at the performance evidence (PE) requirements of the electrical package, it does not cover the entire PE required under the ICT training package.”
Ian says it’s worth noting that the UEE30811 qualification has been constructed to meet the Essential Performance Capabilities as defined by the Electrical Regulator Authorities Council (see Table 4).”
By mapping an electrician’s training to the work required for aerial and underground cabling, it can be concluded that someone holding the electrical qualification for UEE30811 who has gained open cabler registration does not meet the requirements for the specialist competency under the Cabling Provider Rules.
What does this mean in the real world?
“If an electrician with an open cabler registration enters someone’s premises and runs a communications cable out to a granny flat without having the right endorsement, they are violating their registration conditions as well as the Telecommunications Act,” Ian says.
“If discovered or reported, this will lead to serious fines. And the ACMA did a number of audits on this very scenario last year.”
As the rollout of the NBN progresses, albeit slowly, around the nation, the number of electricians being asked to run aerial and underground cabling has and will continue to increase.
“For the sake of a few hours of your time, you’re leaving yourself wide open to potential legal and financial action,” Ian says,
“How much risk do you want to take?”