Testing and tagging: fulfilling your duty of care
By Bec Sparky, Clipsal Brand Ambassador and qualified electrician
Monday, 12 September, 2016
Regular testing and tagging of your organisation’s electrical equipment is not just a legal requirement but a smart way to protect your business and its employees from the dangers of faulty electrical equipment.
At the extreme end, faulty equipment can cause electrical fires or shock, resulting in injuries that can sometimes be fatal. There is also the risk of equipment failure. While perhaps more benign from a safety perspective, the failure of a key electrical device can have serious impacts on business continuity.
Routine inspections can identify obvious signs of wear and tear but also other conditions that may render electrical equipment unsafe such as wiring faults or ineffective safety switches.
For all of these reasons, it’s critical that you’re familiar with the regulations around testing and tagging and the steps you can take to protect your business.
Understanding the regulatory landscape
Organisations of all sizes are bound by regulatory obligations to regularly test electrical equipment. These regulations vary amongst the different states and territories in Australia but all require testing at scheduled intervals. In manufacturing or other high-risk environments, routine testing is generally required every six months. There are also specific tests such residual current device (RCD) testing which need to occur as often as every three months.
In addition, Safe Work Australia mandates that any person conducting a business or undertaking has a duty of care under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act “to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons at the workplace are not exposed to electrical risks arising from the business or undertaking”.
Safe Work Australia’s Managing Electrical Risks in the Workplace Code of Practice also calls for regular testing of electrical equipment, which it says may involve, in part:
- looking for obvious damage, defects or modifications to the electrical equipment, including accessories, connectors, plugs or cord extension sockets;
- looking for discolouration that may indicate exposure to excessive heat, chemicals or moisture;
- checking the integrity of protective earth and insulation resistance;
- checking that flexible cords are effectively anchored to equipment, plugs, connectors and cord extension sockets;
- looking for damage to flexible cords;
- checking that operating controls are in good working order ie, they are secure, aligned and appropriately identified;
- checking that covers, guards, etc are secured and working in the manner intended by the manufacturer or supplier;
- checking that ventilation inlets and exhausts are unobstructed; and
- checking that the current rating of the plug matches the current rating of the associated electrical equipment.
A national standard
Thorough guidance on testing and tagging can be found within the Australian and New Zealand standard AS/NZS 3760:2010. The standard specifies that the checking and tagging of equipment must be done by a ‘competent person’, meaning someone who has the necessary skills and training to undertake the required tasks.
Those with the right training and qualification should be aware of the AS/NZS 3760:2010 standard and the recommended testing time frames and procedures for various equipment.
The standard specifies procedures for the safety inspection and testing of low-voltage single-phase and polyphase electrical equipment, connected to the electrical supply by a flexible cord or connecting device, and that:
- is new equipment placed into service for the first time;
- is already in-service;
- has been serviced or repaired;
- is returning to service from a second-hand sale; or
- is available for hire.
Whether you have the expertise in-house to complete the required testing and tagging or you are outsourcing this to a competent electrician, you should ensure these standards are followed.
- You should also keep detailed records of all testing, including the name of the person who carried out the testing; the date and outcome of the testing; and the date on which the next testing must be carried out.
- You may choose to capture these details in a database or log book or simply record the information on a tag attached to the electrical equipment tested. If using tags, they must be durable. Look for tags that are water resistant, non-metallic, self-adhesive or otherwise well secured and incapable of re-use. Tags should additionally have a bright, distinctive surface and may be colour-coded to identify the month in which the testing was carried out. Of course, tags should also clearly identify any equipment which fails to pass inspection.
Resources and training
If the testing and tagging of electrical equipment is a new concept for you or your organisation, you can find further information on the Safe Work Australia website and also download the Australian and New Zealand standard AS/NZS 3760:2010 from the SAI Global website. There are additionally dedicated training courses for individuals who want to be able to carry out or manage the testing themselves. Some of these offer certification in as little as one day — well worth the investment of your time if the duty of care for electrical testing and tagging rests with you.
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