Electrical work in schools

Information about electrical standards, and other important guidance for your school and project manager.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Administrators
  • Principals and tumuaki

All electrical work in schools must comply with the Ministry’s electrical installation standard and the Australian/New Zealand wiring rules. Boards need to make sure your project manager is familiar with them.

Meeting the electrical standards for work in schools

All prescribed electrical work in schools must comply with the:

1. Ministry’s Electrical Installations: Standards for schools.

2. Australia/New Zealand Standard 3000: 2007 – Electrical installations(external link) – this standard is also known as the Australian/New Zealand wiring rules.

These 2 standards are mainly used by electrical engineers, designers, consultants and contractors. However it is important that boards ensure your project manager is familiar with them, as most property projects involve some electrical work.

Using the Ministry’s electrical installation standard

We have developed the electrical installations: Standard for schools v1.6 to ensure schools’ electrical infrastructure meets minimum standards for safety, design, installation and maintenance support.

Electrical installations: Standard for schools v1.6 [PDF, 870 KB]

All electrical work in schools must comply with this standard including:

  • installing new electrical infrastructure
  • altering existing electrical infrastructure
  • repairing or maintaining existing electrical infrastructure.

Managing earth leakage current

'Earth leakage current' is a current that flows to earth, even though the circuit is electrically sound. The earth leakage current must be kept within specific limits.

Residual current devices (RCDs) provide extra electrical safety by operating (turning off) once the earth leakage exceeds the specific limit. The Ministry’s electrical installation standard will ensure that all electrical upgrades provide RCD protection for all lighting circuits and socket outlets.

2 types of RCDs

There are 2 types of RCD available to provide personal protection in schools: 10 milliamperes (mA) and 30mA.

The 10mA RCD is the more sensitive, and will operate (turn off) with only one-third of the leakage current of the 30mA RCD.

When to use 10mA RCDs

In early childhood education facilities and schools up to Year 8, when upgrading distribution boards, or adding additional socket outlets, all socket outlet circuits must be protected by 10mA RCDs. But, you only need to do this in areas where children are being taught or are likely to use portable electrical devices.

Exceptions to using 10mA RCDs

You don’t need to use 10mA RCDs when the socket outlets are:

  • over 1.8 metres above the floor
  • in corridors, multipurpose halls and similar areas where students are unlikely to use portable electrical appliances
  • for computers (PCs or laptops) that are not for general use – they must have labels stating that they are for ICT use only and they can be fitted with coloured faceplates to make them more distinctive
  • for other particular purposes, such as use by cleaners.

When to use 30mA RCDs

For all other outlets in schools, including the above exceptions, and for all lighting circuits, a 30mA RCD must be used for protection.

Specifically, socket outlets installed for use by computers or other ICT devices should be protected by 30mA RCDs. They must have a label stating that they are for ICT use only.

Number of sockets allowed per RCD unit

The number of socket outlets that can be connected on each RCD protected circuit depends on the:

  • equipment likely to be plugged in
  • amount of earth leakage current that the equipment dissipates
  • sensitivity of the RCD.

PC computers can have significant amounts of leakage current, which can cause an RCD to trip if too many computers are connected on one circuit.

Therefore, it is recommended that no more than:

  • two double-socket outlets are used per 10mA RCD
  • six double-socket outlets are used per 30mA RCD.

Protecting electrical cabling from sun damage

Electrical cabling exposed to sunlight over a long period of time can breakdown creating a fire hazard. Cabling is often exposed to direct sunlight when clipped to eaves or walkways. We recommend that where, in particular, TPS Cable (white PVC cable) is used externally, you ask a registered electrician to identify where the sheath or junctions with fittings may be loose, cracked, or have exposed wires. Ask for the cable to be run in a UV resistant pathway.

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