One of the founding members of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has a proud history of innovation and partnership with industry. IMIESA speaks to Dr Sadhvir Bissoon, executive: Standards at the SABS, and senior team members on electrotechnical developments.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020, the SABS is South Africa’s national standards body mandated by legislation to develop, promote and maintain South African National Standards (SANS) and provide relevant conformity assessment services that support the efficient functioning of the South African economy.

SABS conformity assessment services include certification services, testing services, consignment inspections, local content verification – as prescribed by the Department of Trade, Industry & Competition (DTIC) – advisory and training services. These are all aimed at ensuring consumer safety and that both private and public sector entities deliver quality products and services.

“Excellence in any country depends on adherence to standards, and the testing and certification of products and services that meet them,” says Bissoon, who was recently nominated to represent the SABS on the ISO Council. In addition to his other responsibilities, Bissoon is also president of the South African National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

“A core ISO mandate is the realisation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which is also enshrined in South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030, to raise the quality of life for everyone,” says Bissoon.

Key SABS developments in the electrotechnical arena include the roll-out of SANS 10142-1 (The wiring of premises – Part 1: Low-voltage installations (Edition 3: 2020)). Another is the launch of the SANS 164 Part 0 to Part 6 electrical components standards, which tie in with SANS 10142-1.

SANS 164-0 to SANS 164-6 cover the specific requirements for plugs, sockets and adaptors. There’s also a proposed SANS 164-8 applicable to stove plug and socket outlet connections.

In terms of SANS 164-2, it is now compulsory for all new buildings to have a socket-outlet incorporating the SANS 164-2 configuration. In response, a new range of 16 A compact three-pin plugs and sockets now becomes the standard for the local manufacturing, supplier and electrical contracting market. All future appliances should also be fitted with the new plugs. 

All locally manufactured and imported electrical applications up to 220 V must be verified and approved by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) in terms of the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act (No. 5 of 2008). Like the SABS, the NRCS is an extension of the DTIC.

SANS 10142-1 objectives

“SANS 10142-1 was revised to align with international norms,” explains John Dlamini, chair: Technical Committee and team leader: Electrical Standards, SABS.

All low-voltage electrical installations must comply with the requirements of SANS 10142-1. Here, their regulation is governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (No. 85 of 1993) and administered by the Chief Inspector of Occupational Health and Safety of the Department of Labour.

“It also requires that an accredited person, as defined (master installation electrician, installation electrician or electrical tester for single phase), will issue a Certificate of Compliance for an electrical installation in
line with the requirements set out in SANS 10142-1,” Dlamini continues. (For further details on the updates and requirements for SANS 10142-1 and SANS 164 Part 1 to 6, visit

SANS 164-2 compliance

Most older buildings in South Africa still employ large three-pin sockets, which lends itself to the increased use of adaptors. This creates a potential fire hazard due to short circuiting, as well potential damage or malfunctioning of appliances. SANS 164-2 (installation) now prevents this.

Published in July 2020, SANS 164-2 incorporates changes in technology covered in SANS 60884-1: Plugs and socket-outlets for household and similar purposes. SANS 60884-1 is an adoption of the IEC 60884-1 standard.

“Some of the sockets for the new compact three-pin will indicate whether they can accommodate a rewireable plug or not,” says Dlamini. “Warning signs will also appear on adaptors to prevent the use of multiple adaptors plugged into one another. This will avoid the risk of electricity hazards due to overloading and poor connections.”

From 2018, an earlier version of the wiring code (SANS 10142-1) already required socket outlets in electrical installations to meet SANS 164-2 at every socket outlet point. However, until now, other configurations (such as SANS 164-1) could also be installed on to the
same outlet.

“The changes in SANS 164-0 are now generic to all the SANS 164 series of standards, namely Part 1 to Part 6,” explains Sihle Qwabe, senior manager: Electrotech Engineering, SABS, who is responsible for lower voltage and electronics. 

Low-voltage switchgear

In terms of other recent developments, the latest SANS 10142-1 also applies to low-voltage switchgear for testing requirements. 

In October 2015, IEC standard 61439 replaced SANS 60439:2004 – the standard that applied to low-voltage switchgear and control gear assemblies. “The new standard allows for any one of the three types of design verification to indicate compliance to the standard (Verification by Type Testing, Verification by Calculation or Measurement and Verification by Design Rules), whereas the previous standard required verification by testing without reference to all categories,” Qwabe continues.

Verification by type testing subjects the equipment to performance limits or ‘destructive testing’, functional tests and most importantly includes temperature rise tests for indoor and outdoor applications. These steps are all aimed at minimising the risk of substation fires.

SABS, through its independent, third-party national electrical test facility, which is accredited by the South African National Accreditation System, conducts verification by type testing on all switchgear equipment. 

Renewables and energy efficiency

In terms of renewable energy, the SABS has also adapted IEC standards for the local market for wind farm, gas, biomass, PV solar installations and embedded generators. In terms of the latter, SABS plans to release a new IEC adapted standard mid-2021. LED energy efficiency in lighting is a further SABS mandate. While there’s no local LED testing facility at present, the SABS has motivated for funding – a move endorsed by the NRCS.


Setting the standard establishes the benchmark. The next step for manufacturers and suppliers is product and/or system certification. “Product certification (SABS Mark Scheme) requires that the product is tested against the relevant SANS, thereby meeting the requisite performance and safety requirements,” explains Lenney Naidu, manager: Electrical Certification, SABS.

A SABS permit is subsequently issued to the client, which permits the client to insert the SABS mark of approval on the manufactured product. “It’s a continuous process, with two audits scheduled annually, as well as random sample selection to ensure ongoing compliance to the SABS Mark Scheme requirements.”

System certification is a process of validating that a company complies to the relevant management system standard – i.e. SANS/ISO 9001. The SABS has also been appointed by the DTIC as the verification body for local content verification.

The SABS continues to implement processes and systems to improve turnaround times in the testing of products, as well as the issuing of SABS test reports. This is clearly a priority for local manufacturers and suppliers to ensure timely access of their products into domestic, regional and international markets.

Standards are industry-driven

Standards are never developed in isolation. “The SABS governs the process of the development of national standards through international best practice principles including openness, transparency, stakeholder engagement, consensus and coherence, and our success depends on proactive and constructive engagement with a diverse representation of stakeholders via our technical committees,” adds Bissoon.

Within the electrical sector, the development of market-related national standards – supported by certification, testing and verification services – drives access to markets, competitiveness and consumer well-being.

“The SABS is committed to providing a diverse range of standardisation services aligned to the DTIC industrial priority sectors, thereby supporting the socio-economic objectives of the country,” Bissoon concludes.

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