Who is responsible for safety at work?
It used to be that the boss was the one who was liable when accidents happened in the workplace. However, modern OHS regulations and practices acknowledges that EVERYONE in the workplace is responsible for maintaining a safe environment, and anyone can face penalties for failing to do so.
A phrase regularly used in the modern workplace regarding responsibility for safety is “You see it, you own it”. This means that if you are aware of a hazard or unsafe practice, at the very least, you have a responsibility to report it.
The test and tag standard (AS/NZS 3760:2010) defines a person responsible for the safety of electrical equipment as “The owner of the premises; OR the owner of the electrical equipment; OR a person who has a legal responsibility for the safety of electrical equipment within the scope of the standard.”
Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, section 1.4.19
Can I save money by doing the testing and tagging in-house?
The answer to this question depends very much on the size of a business, and the skillsets your staff possess. That is, if a business employs people with electrical technical skills you may save on training, and if the business is large and has lots of electrical equipment it may provide a saving.
Some of the cost considerations are the need for initial and on-going training (both in terms of course cost and cost of having staff attend), costs of purchasing suitable test equipment (including the time it takes staff to become proficient at using the equipment), and the cost of creating test reports and managing the system as required by AS/NZS 3760:2010.
However, there is more to consider than just dollar savings. A quality PAT tester and peripherals can cost several thousand dollars, if it is costing a few hundred dollars a year to have a professional service do the testing and tagging (which is actually at the higher end of the scale) it will take many years to recoup the expense. An in-house tester will have a very limited range of experience and will only perform the task a few times a year at best. While a professional tester will have developed a vast amount of experience on a wide range of appliances, and is constantly practising, honing and improving their skills and knowledge through regular application.
I think the Standard requires me to test too often. Can I make up my own testing frequency?
The short answer is YES (unless you are offering equipment for hire). The standard has provision to allow flexibility for customized solutions in particular environments. Organisations may substitute other periods than those indicated in Table 4 of the standard, after conducting a documented risk assessment in accordance with AS/NZS ISO 31000 “Risk Management – Principles and Guidelines”.
However, conducting such a documented risk assessment can be a complicated and costly exercise, and if not done properly may not be viewed by the applicable Regulatory Authority as acceptable. Also, there is no guarantee that your assessment will determine that test frequencies can be extended.
What constitutes a Hostile Environment?
The term “Hostile Environment” sounds pretty ominous and you may look around at your workplace and think it isn’t at all hostile (to you), but the term means in relation to electrical equipment, not humans.
An environment that is considered hostile for electrical equipment is one where there is a reasonable possibility of damage (physical or mechanical) occurring as a result of exposure to a number of elements including vibration, dust, moisture, heat, chemicals, fumes or impact.
Using these parameters most offices would be considered hostile environments. Let’s take a look at the computer on your desk. That cup of coffee could get knocked over (moisture hazard), you often catch your feet on the cables under your desk (impact/vibration hazard), and when was the last time you opened your computer’s cover to remove dust from the cooling fan (dust/heat hazard).
Do all businesses have to test and tag their electrical equipment?
The short answer is NO, not all businesses but all employers. If you or your business employs anyone, in order to ensure that the equipment in your workplace is safe and without risk to health, your minimum legal requirement is to comply with the requirements of the applicable Australian Standard, which is AS/NZS 3760:2010.
This standard is not called for by law, but as an Australian Standard it is the legal minimum requirement. All States and Territories in Australia require compliance to AS/NZS 3760:2010.
Go to “Do You Comply” for more detail,
How long will it take to test and tag my electrical equipment?
This is a bit of a “How long is a piece of string” question. Most items only take a couple of minutes to inspect, test and tag (e.g. power cords, extension cords, hand tools), but more complex items like computers will take longer (a standard desktop PC has the power cable, the PC itself, the screen and its power cord). Also, some items may require multiple tests (e.g. a power board with an RCD, which has to have every socket tested and the RCD tested).
Irrespective of the type of equipment under test, the biggest impact on time is often access. If the equipment is made readily available to the Tester the process will be quick. If leads are tangled and hidden behind other items, or woven in and around other objects the process can be slowed down considerably.
Jez Test and Tag uses state-of-the-art PAT Testers and tag printers, and has documented procedures to ensure the process is carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Will my staff have to stop working while the testing and tagging is done?
Most tests require that the electrical equipment or appliance be plugged into the PAT Tester to perform the test, so it will have to be turned off and unplugged from its power source. This should only take a couple of minutes, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for your staff to keep productive with something else while the test is performed.
Jez Test and Tag will always work with the client to ensure minimal disruption to your workplace. This may mean testing certain items during staff breaks, or arranging to perform the testing outside of your normal working hours.
Do I have to have equipment in all areas of my business tested, or just the workshop?
The standard requires that, if you are an employer, all LOW VOLTAGE single or poly phase electrical equipment that is connected to the electrical supply by a flexible cord or connecting device, whether portable or non-portable, must be tested no matter where it is in the workplace.
This includes customer waiting areas, staff kitchens, equipment in vehicles, and anywhere else you can think of; irrespective of how hostile the environment is assessed to be. The only difference may be that some areas of your business are assessed as less hostile than others, so the frequency of testing of electrical equipment and appliances in different areas may vary.
Are there rules about what does and doesn’t need testing?
Yes, section 1 of the standard outlines what equipment and appliances are required to be tested, and when and what is exempt from the requirements of the standard. For more detailed information go to “The Standard“.
Who is responsible for equipment that is hired out?
There are a couple of specific requirements around equipment offered for hire.
Any equipment that is offered for hire must have been tested and tagged within three months of being hired. Once it is hired it is the responsibility of the Hiree to ensure it is tested and tagged in accordance with the requirements of AS/NZS 3760:2010.
The frequency of testing of equipment offered for hire must always be as per the requirements of Table 4 of the standard. The standard does not allow the test frequency of hire equipment to be modified after conducting a documented risk assessment in accordance with AS/NZS ISO 31000.
Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, section 1.2.4
What is a “Competent Person”?
The standard requires that only a “Competent Person” can carry out inspection and testing activities.
A competent person is one who the responsible person ensures has the necessary practical and theoretical skills, acquired through training, qualification, experience or a combination of these, to correctly undertake the required tasks.
NOTE – A competent person is not required to be a registered or licensed electrical practitioner in Victoria. Requirements for registration vary between jurisdictions.
A guideline outlining the knowledge of electrical principles a competent person must possess is provided in Appenix B of AS/NZS 3760:2010.
Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, section 1.4.4
Does New equipment have to be tested and tagged before being put into service?
When equipment is new, the supplier is responsible for its initial electrical safety. New equipment does not legally require testing but must be visually inspected by a competent person for obvious damage. When deemed compliant it must be tagged, and the tag must contain specific information.
Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, section 1.2.1 and 220.127.116.11(c)
Thereafter, the equipment must be tested and tagged as per the requirements of Table 4 of the standard.
Jez Test and Tag offers an inspection and tagging service for new equipment. We can also provide “New To Service” tags if your business has a competent person to perform in-house visual inspections.
Does Second-Hand or Repaired equipment have to be tested and tagged before being put into service?
If sourced from a second-hand sale, electrical equipment must be inspected and tested before being placed in service to ensure the equipment is safe.
NOTE: AS/NZS 5761 “In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing – Second-Hand Electrical Equipment Prior to Sale” shall apply.
Electrical equipment must be inspected and tested on return to service after repair or servicing that could have affected the electrical safety of the equipment.
NOTE: AS/NZS 5762 “In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing – Repaired Electrical Equipment” may apply.
Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, section 2.1
Jez Test And Tag offers discounted rates for not-for-profit charitable organisations selling second-hand equipment through retail outlets.
Do my tags have to be a specific colour?
For everywhere other than the Construction, Demolition and Mining industries there is no requirement that specific coloured tags are used. In these industries AS/NZS 3012 requires that testing and tagging to be done quarterly, with each quarter being represented by a different colour. The colours for each quarter as specified by AS/NZS 3012 are: –
RED December – February
GREEN March – May
BLUE June – August
YELLOW September – November
Even though coloured tags are not a requirement for other industries, it can be a good practice to use alternating colours between test periods because it will provide you with a simple visual clue as to which items have been retested and which are still to be done.
What happens if my equipment doesn’t pass the inspection and testing?
When in-service inspection or testing identifies equipment which fails to comply with the criteria given in the Standard, the equipment must be withdrawn from service, and appropriately labelled to indicate that the equipment requires remedial action and warn against further use.
The choice of remedial action, disposal or other corrective action shall be determined by the owner or the person responsible for the safety of the site where the equipment is used.
Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, section 2.4.1
Jez Test and Tag will always report any faulty equipment to the Responsible Person, prior to any action being taken!
What records do I need to keep?
Where records of test and inspection are kept by an employer, the following should be recorded:
- A register of all equipment;
- A record of formal inspection and tests;
- A ‘repair’ register;
- A record of all faulty equipment showing details of services or corrective actions.
What is Class I and Class II equipment?
The terms “Class I” and “Class II” equipment refers to the two classes of equipment to which AS/NZS 3760 applies.
Class I equipment has single insulation with a protective earthing conductor. Generally, for Class I equipment the plug will have an Earth pin.
Class II equipment has double insulation with NO protective earthing conductor. Generally, for Class II equipment the plug will NOT have an Earth pin.
Class II equipment is required to be marked with the words “Double Insulated” or this symbol.
NOTE: Sometimes Class II appliances may still have an earth pin for purposes other than safety such as functional earth.