The State of Retail Sales of Electrical Goods in South Africa


South African retail stores offer a vast array of electrical products ranging from electrical sockets, light fittings, circuit breakers and a multitude of support items. While these products are readily available, it’s essential to consider their origin and quality.

Electrical contractors often procure these items from electrical wholesalers, known for their extensive product range, robust support, and, most importantly, compliance with local regulations. However, these electrical products are not exclusive to contractors; they are also relevant to homeowners and handymen.

Many product packages indicate that they should be installed by an electrical contractor, but it appears that this requirement is often overlooked. The responsibility for ensuring that these devices meet the necessary test approvals before sale lies with the seller. Unfortunately, not all sellers uphold this responsibility, thereby potentially passing on risks to buyers.

Navigating the Risks

The risk associated with electrical products varies depending on their source. Recognised suppliers typically offer products with the necessary quality certifications, such as Letters of Approval (LoA). Larger retail outlets tend to demand these certifications from their suppliers to ensure consumer safety.

The biggest risk for consumers is purchasing from smaller outlets and establishments that source outside of RSA. Often these products are not legally compliant with local legislation or have bypassed all inspections prior to offering for sale.

If consumers were more informed and insisted on approval documents like LoAs that clearly identify the product type and model, they could play an active role in mitigating these risks. Safehouse is committed to enhancing public education on this matter.

Understanding Legislation

Taking a closer look at legislation concerning the replacement of plugs, sockets, and switchgear in domestic settings, we find that the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993, and its amendments apply. This legislation is further elaborated upon in the Electrical Installation Regulations 2009 (EIR).

Key points to remember include:

  • A domestic dwelling qualifies as an installation.
  • Those in charge of the installation can be owners, users, or lessees.
  • Only registered (DOEL/DOL) electricians can perform installation, extension, modification, or repair work.
  • Any replacement or renewal outside the prescribed individuals listed in the legislation is not legally permissible.

Inherent Risks

When it comes to replacing circuit breakers, wall sockets, and light switches, there are inherent risks:

  • Choice of brand and technology
  • Proper mounting methodology
  • Correct kA rating
  • Appropriate Amp rating for the cable in use
  • Proper discrimination Amp rating
  • Correct torque applied to clamp the Miniature Circuit Breaker (MCB)
  • Correctly terminated cable ends
  • Addressing any identified substandard issues

These risks extend to wall sockets and light switches, which require careful consideration of factors like sizing, wiring knowledge, torque, and earth circuit integrity.

Our Promise - Your Electrical Safety Compliance Safehouse

Safehouse’s core promise is that a Safehouse product is a safe product. The Safehouse mark stands for absolute adherence to the highest electrical safety standards. In order to qualify as a custodian of this mark, Safehouse members must commit to random product testing, self-regulation and unwavering safety standards. It’s this single-minded focus on protecting people and the integrity of our industry that makes a Safehouse member worthy of our mark. Our standards are high, regularly re-evaluated, and rigorously enforced with no exceptions. The Electrical Safety Compliance Safehouse.


There are two contrasting viewpoints on this matter. One perspective calls for electrical items to be exclusively sold through specialist stores or electrical wholesalers, catering mainly to authorised personnel like electricians. This approach, while prioritising safety, may not be practical due to potential retail sector losses and consumer limitations.

The alternative viewpoint maintains the status quo while advocating for homeowner education to encourage DIY efforts or professional electrician services when necessary. This approach fosters retail competition, ease of purchase, and ensures product approval, especially when products display the Safehouse logo.

We would like to remind you of the importance of informed decision-making and the need for adherence to regulations. An incident we recently encountered emphasised the importance of seeking professional help when undertaking electrical work to avoid potential hazards.

Safehouse remains committed to promoting electrical safety awareness and public education.

Thank you for your continued support.

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