Fresh to print, the Earthing and Lightning Protection Association (ELPA) co-hosted the first of two seminars with Association for Renewable Energy Practitioners (AREP), ‘Earthing and Lightning seminar – Surge protection for solar PV Plants’ on August 14th at a venue fortuitously powered by a solar PV plant in the vicinity of Paarl, Cape Town.

New ELPA board appointed

The second seminar took place in Midrand on August 20th. ELPA national director, Richard Evert discusses the immediate road ahead for the industry and the association:

“The seminars are consistent with my previous statements that ‘Communication is key’. Supportive interventions by our past Chairman of the Board, along with the President of AREP, Carel Ballack, opened the door for this intervention. While the seminars may have been premature, the opportunities could not be ignored, and the outcome has been enlighteningly consistent with the message we shared with Spark Electrical News readers in January 2019. A typical response to the message of lightning threat is either “We don’t have lightning” or “We don’t have a lightning problem”.

The term ‘Ignorance is our enemy’ was coined in the Spark Electrical News September 2018 edition and still holds. So what to do about it? For a start, the Association has to be sustainable to be able to make a lasting and positive impact. A year ago in the Sparks August 2018 edition, we reported that the business and financial models would change by knowledge gained from an older and significantly larger equivalent organisation, the LPI, the Lightning Protection Institute in the USA. The model lends itself to collaboration while demanding accountability through financial investment.

An integral part of any industry is its resources, and the lightning protection industry does not have a feeder program to ensure new resources in a growth market. That is, the establishment of a clear career path and qualifications by industry needs is a high priority. From the assistant to the installer to the designer to the inspector – each category will be reviewed to quantify the job and the associated skills set and populated within the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). Set of unit standards and translated to the Quality Council on Trades and Occupations (QCTO) modules under the supervision of the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) to establish aligned occupational qualifications in the lightning protection industry. Some aspects of the occupation are available as unit standards, and therefore, some existing skills will already have some credits towards the lightning protection qualifications. Those not included in other professions will be quantified and approved according to QCTO with recognition of prior learning (RPL) as part of the outcomes.

Throughout this process, the Department of Labour and the AIA (Approved Inspection Authority) is integral to a positive outcome together with industry Associations such as the ECA, SAIEE and the ECB. We need to expect more from these bodies, and ELPA needs to be measured by the same yardstick. However, these Associations must work together to achieve success within the electrical industry as a whole.

We have completed the changes to the ELPA business and financial models. The new Board of Directors has been elected and appointed. They are (ordered by surname), Gerhard Human, Helmut Kanwischer (Treasurer), Israel Melodi, Hano Oelofse, Tertius Oelofse, Graeme Smart, Rhyno van der Westhuizen and Mike Visser (founding chairman and current Company Secretary). The first meeting of the Board of Directors took place at the end of July with a significant number of decisions made. We have identified that education and training is an extremely high priority alongside building up the membership of ELPA for a sustainable representation.

ELPA will maintain core teams to review materials and procedures compliance and standards relevance in support of the SABS, Department of Labour (DoL) and the municipal regulatory bodies. Also on the priority list will be the development of handbooks for the industry, skills development programs, and regional support through interaction with the ECA and SAIEE. ELPA has engaged in resources to build collaboration capacity with all mainstream Associations that are impacted by lightning or can have an impact on how we, as South Africans, should be addressing the threat of lightning.

ELPA is looking to a coordinated future with a reduction in lightning damage and loss of human life.”

Enquiries: www.elpasa.org.za

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