A Bit About Testing & Tagging

What is a PAT, and PAT tester?

Doesn’t a Multimeter do the job just as well as a PAT Tester?

What equipment and appliances do I need to get tested?

Do I need to test personal equipment Staff bring to work?

What does the Inspection, Testing and Tagging process involve?

How often do I need to have my equipment tested?


What is a PAT, and PAT tester?

“PAT” is an acronym that stands for Portable Appliance Testing, and a “PAT Tester” is Portable Appliance Testing Tester; i.e. the device that is used to perform a PAT.

Portable appliance testing is a process by which electrical appliances are routinely checked for safety. The formal term for the process is “in-service inspection & testing of electrical equipment”.  In Australia and New Zealand the standard that covers the requirements of this process is “AS/NZS 3760:2010 In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment”.

Testing involves a visual inspection of the equipment and any flexible cables for good condition and absence of damage, and where required verification of grounding (earthing) continuity, and a test of the soundness of insulation between the current carrying parts, and any exposed metal that may be touched.

PAT Testers are specifically designed to carry out the abovementioned tests in a way that complies with the requirements of the applicable standard.

Doesn’t a Multimeter do the job just as well as a PAT Tester?

A Portable Appliance Tester does 2 basic tests. One is the Earth Continuity Test and the other is the Insulation Resistance test.

Earth Continuity Tests check that the Earth Bonding is sound and can protect the user in case of a fault.

Insulation Resistance tests check the quality of the insulation protecting the user.  When this test is conducted the voltage used for testing should be 500V in order to bring out any faults.

Most Multimeters, while perfectly capable of testing resistance, do so with a low voltage, which is too low to properly stress the insulation and highlight any faults.

PAT Testers are designed to satisfy the requirements of AS/NZS 3760:2010, whereas Multimeters are not!

What equipment and appliances do I need to get tested?

To meet the requirements of AS/NZS 3760:2010 you need to test all low voltage equipment that is either in-service at a place of work OR public place, OR is offered for hire.

The standard DOES require safety inspection and testing of the following equipment: –

  • Residual Current Devices (RCDs) except for those covered by AS/NZS 3003 and NZS 6115 (these standards relate to hospitals and medical facilities).
  • Portable inverters that generate LOW VOLTAGE
  • Portable equipment, hand-held equipment and stationary equipment connected to a low voltage power supply by a supply cord with an appliance inlet or pins for insertion into a socket outlet.
  • Cord sets, cord extension sets and outlet devices (commonly referred to as powerboards, also known as Electrical Portable Outlet Devices – EPODs).
  • Flexible cords connected to fixed equipment in hostile environments.
  • Portable power supplies that generate LOW VOLTAGE.
  • Battery chargers, including those for commercial or industrial use.
  • Portable and transportable heavy duty tools such as high pressure washers and concrete grinders.
    Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, section 1.1

The standard DOES NOT require safety inspection and testing of the following equipment: –

    • Electrical equipment installed at a height greater than 2.5 metres where there is no reasonable chance of a person touching the equipment and coming into contact with earth, or any conducting medium through which a circuit may be completed to earth, at the same time.
  • Any equipment that would require dismantling to test
  • RCDs covered by AS/NZS 3003 and NZS 6115, which relates to hospitals and medical facilities
  • Fixed or stationary equipment (except RCDs) connected to wiring that forms part of an electrical installation and falls within the scope of AS/NZS 3000
  • Medical equipment or equipment connected to medical electrical equipment in a medical electrical system as defined in AS/NZS 3551. Requirements for testing of such equipment are contained in AS/NZS 3551.
  • Portable generators within the scope of AS/NZS 3010 or AS 2790
  • Demonstration stock in retail or wholesale outlets.
    Reference: AS/NZS 3760:2010, sections 1.1.2 – 1.1.9

Do I need to test personal equipment Staff bring to work?

You would be surprised at the range of electrical appliances Staff bring into the workplace; mobile phone and tablet chargers, sandwich makers, food processors, clocks, fans, and more!

Regulations and standards in Australia around safety testing of electrical equipment do not differentiate between privately owned and business owned items in the workplace.  As far as they are concerned the Employer is responsible for taking all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of ALL equipment in the workplace.

Therefore, if Staff have brought personal electronic items (that are required by the standard to be tested) into the workplace, they MUST make them available for testing, and the Employer must have them tested.

What does the Inspection, Testing and Tagging process involve?

The tests that AS/NZS 3760:2010 requires on appliances covered by the standard are: –

  • Visual Inspection
  • Polarity Check (for cord sets and extension cord sets)
  • Earth Continuity
  • Insulation Resistance
  • Earth Current Leakage/Touch Current Leakage (as applicable)

Experience has shown that 90% of defects are detectable by visual inspection.  Therefore, equipment must be visually inspected, and physically checked prior to performing any of the Polarity, Earth, or Insulation test.

Equipment that is supplied by cord set must have both the cord set and the equipment tested and tagged separately.

Your equipment must be subject to regular testing and inspection to detect obvious damage, wear or other conditions than may render it unsafe.

Testers cannot dismantle equipment to perform inspection or testing, nor test it to destruction.  Testers perform TESTING ONLY – no Repairs or Modifications!

The testing is NOT intended to demonstrate that equipment complies with the safety standard applicable to that equipment.  Only to check that it is safe to use as defined in AS/NZS 3760:2010.

If equipment fails a test and is to be disposed of, it must be done in a manner that does not allow someone to take it and attempt to reuse it.

How often do I need to have my equipment tested?

The frequency of re-testing of electrical equipment and flexible cord sets is determined by the equipment type and the environment in which the equipment is being used.  Re-test frequency is based on the level of hazard and the degree of abuse to which equipment is typically exposed.

Electrical equipment must be inspected and tested at intervals shown in Table 4, Section2 of AS/NZS 3760:2010 (subject to a tolerance of two weeks), or as varied by a responsible person after performing a risk assessment as per the requirements of AS/NZS ISO 31000 “Risk Management – Principles and Guidelines”.

Click HERE to go to a table that reproduces the information contained in the abovementioned Table 4.