Who is liable for injury caused by faulty electric fencing?

Stepp Updates
October 31, 2018
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December 4, 2018

In South Africa, homeowners often make use of electric fencing, along with alarm systems and CCTV cameras, as a means of deterring potential burglars and criminals.

However, burglars and potential criminals are not the only ones who can get hurt at the hands of this potentially dangerous criminal deterrent. The question arises, who would be held liable if someone got hurt due to a fault in the electric fencing?

Every homeowner that has electric fencing on their property, must have a valid Certificate of Compliance. If the homeowner does not have a valid Certificate of Compliance, he/she will be liable for any injuries that have been caused by their electric fencing. In the worst-case scenario, if this faulty electric fencing causes serious injury or harm, the homeowner could face a hefty fine and even jail time.

By law, electric fencing must comply with the following regulations as set out in the Electrical Machinery Regulations, 2011:

  • electric fencing cannot be installed on a wall that does not have a minimum height 1.5m;
  • if angled brackets are used to install the electric fencing, they must be installed on the inside of the homeowner’s wall, and may not exceed an outward angle of 45 degrees;
  • angle brackets cannot be put into neighbours’ property without their explicit consent;
  • the electric fencing should be installed in such a way that it will not pose a threat to people or animals;
  • the distance between the posts should be a maximum of 3m;
  • for every 30m, no less than three earth spikes must be installed;
  • barbed wire and razor wire may not be electrified under any circumstances;
  • warning signs must be visible to warn people that the fence is electrified; and
  • if gates are electrified, they must be able to open and close without the person receiving a shock.

What do you do if you or your child is injured due to faulty electric fencing that does not comply with the abovementioned regulations? Since the electric fence does not comply with the necessary regulations, you may put forward a personal injury claim against the homeowner responsible for the electric fencing, as he/she will be held liable for any injury caused when they do not have a valid Certificate of Compliance.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)