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Ref: Electrotechnical 1 Enquiries: Alan Cohen Tel: +27 (012) 428-6250 Fax: +27 (012) 428Cell: Email: cohenag@sabs.co.za

18 July 2007 SABS strikes a blow at non-compliant electrical products

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has indicated that it will not permit the sale of electrical products that threaten the safety of the public. A swoop on the premises of at least 23 importers and manufacturers of unsafe electrical products has resulted in SABS taking drastic action against them. Steps taken included restricting the sale of some products, the confiscation and destruction of goods, imposing fines and possible imprisonment in the case of serious offences. In one extreme case a person was apprehended for obstructing the cause of justice. The SABS said that it will consider publishing the names of the guilty parties once it has completed its actions and investigations.

SABS actions follows after investigations have shown that an increasing number of instances of non-compliant electrical products are entering the SA market. Safety requirements for electrical products are prescribed in compulsory specifications administered by the SABS Regulatory Division.

“A number of companies have acted responsibly and withdrawn their non-compliant products from the market voluntarily and have taken corrective action,” said Alan Cohen, technical specialist in the Strategic Support Services Division of SABS Regulatory. “Unfortunately others have persisted in selling the products concerned, and obstructed the SABS in taking the necessary action. This situation has necessitated the establishment of a task team within SABS representing our

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Standards, Testing, Certification and Regulatory functions to deal with the remaining non-compliant products. Our intention is to remove all of them from the market within 3 months. “

The following categories of non-conforming products have been identified and the nature of some of the non-compliances are indicated below:       Stoves - incorrect wiring used; Rice cookers - markings, instructions; Electric scales - markings, instructions; Hair clippers - incorrect power rating leading to overheating, incorrect power cords; Steam irons - markings, instructions, power input rating; Luminaires ( lighting equipment) – incorrect components that could overheat, missing mandatory components such as capacitors, lamp or fluorescent tube holders, incorrect ratings (220V instead of the legal 230V AC), non-compliant lamp holders, cords and cords;     Adaptors – protection from shock, markings, instructions; Plugs – illegal plugs used; Switches for appliances; Flexible cords and cord extension sets – protection from shock, incorrect conductor materials used in construction of flexible cords.

“Some of the manufacturers of non-conforming electrical products even had the audacity to illegally apply the SABS quality certification mark to their products,” Cohen says. He points out that it is illegal to apply the SABS mark to products unless they meet the high level of quality assurance required by SABS on an ongoing basis, and the relevant company has entered into a contract with SABS for the use of its mark.

The safety of some flexible cords and cord extension that were offered for sale is of particular concern. The cords used employ a number of different materials as conductors while only pure copper may be used for this purpose. SABS is aware of a number of different alloys of copper and aluminium being used, as well as copper

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coated iron. Some copper/aluminium alloys containing small amounts of aluminium are perfectly safe although they are not pure copper. Such alloys however become unpredictable if too much aluminium is present, and may fail prematurely. The use of iron as a conductor is never acceptable, and is fortunately easily detected by means of a magnet.

“If the non-compliance is of a minor nature, and we are convinced that the product concerned presents no risk to the public, it is possible for the manufacturer or importer to apply for a temporary permit to allow them to dispose of current stock only. Permission will in future only be granted for a limited time of not more than 3 months,” Cohen indicated. He said that strict conditions are always imposed, including the disclosure of monthly stock and sales records to ensure that stock is not replenished. Only one such permit may be issued to each applicant for only one type of non-compliant product – if more such products are declared or discovered, no further permits will be issued.

SABS indicates that it will investigate all matters that are reported to it.


Enquiries: SABS Regulatory Division Alan Cohen Tel: 012 428 6250 Email: cohenag@sabs.co.za

SABS Commercial (Products bearing the SABS mark) Eddie Haw Tel: 012 428 6032, Email: hawe@sabs.co.za

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