Plugs, Leads & Powerboards

Most people take electrical appliances for granted, rarely giving them a second thought. This is even more so with the bits that hang off the appliance, or that the appliance hangs off. I’m talking about Plugs, Leads and Powerboards.

Plugs

It has been a mandatory requirement since 2005 that all electrical appliances for sale or hire must have insulated Active and Neutral pins on their plugs.
The reason behind this is to prevent contact with live metal parts when the plug is not fully inserted into the socket. In particular little fingers can find their way into such openings, or metal object can accidently fall across them.  The diagram below shows a plug with insulated pins.

Equipment sold prior to 2005 does not need to have plugs with insulated pins fitted to pass the electrical safety tests required by AS/NZS 3760:2010, but if any repairs are carried out on the equipment it is highly recommended to take the opportunity to fit a plug with insulated pins.

Extension Cord Sockets

New extension cord sockets are required to have shrouds to prevent any foreign material from accessing any gap between the plug and socket and making contact with the Active or Neutral pins.

Extension cords with the older type socket that are still in service do not need to be fitted with the new type socket to pass the electrical safety tests required by AS/NZS 3760:2010.

Extension Cords

Extension cords (Cord Extension Sets) are inexpensive and readily available, and are being used in most homes or workplaces. Despite this, very few people are aware of the basic requirements that apply to them.
The following is a list of current requirements for new Cord Extension Sets: –
• SOCKETS must have shrouds
• Active and Neutral PINS must be insulated
• The maximum allowable length of extension cords depends on their amperage, and the size (diameter) of the conductors (wires) running through them.
Maximum lengths for Cord Extension Sets are set out in the table below. Lengths quoted are taken from AS/NZS 3199, and are based on a voltage drop of 5% of 230V at rated current for each cross sectional area.

TIPS…

• Any appliance with over 2400w (watts) of power MUST be fitted with a 15amp plug.
• If you ever repair or replace plugs or sockets on extension cords consider using clear backed (transparent) plugs and sockets, as they facilitate easy inspection of sheath grip and conductor polarity.

Double Adaptors

Double adaptors were in common use a decade or so ago, but are becoming increasingly less common.
There are some very good reasons for this! By nature of their design, and as a result of the habits people have developed around using them they are extremely dangerous.

Double adaptors rarely have, in fact I have never seen one that has, any form of surge protection or any mechanism to limit the amount of current drawn through them.  They regularly overheat due to excess current passing through them, and you often see them being piggybacked off each other, which only increases the electrical load and significantly increases the risk of overheating and fire.

Their design also lends them to being easily knocked and dislodged from sockets (or other adaptors if piggybacked), which creates a major hazard by introducing increased risk of electrocution resulting from someone touching the partially exposed pins. It’s worth mentioning at this point that the majority of double adaptors out there are pre-2005, so very few have insulated pins.

Jez Test and Tag does not endorse the use of double adaptors, and will always recommend they be replaced with powerboards or the addition of more electrical outlets (wall sockets). Double adaptors are not covered by AS/NZS 3760:2010, and consequently are not tested for electrical safe.

Powerboards

Power boards can be an extremely useful piece of equipment to have on hand, and are the best alternative to using double adaptors. However, like any electrical equipment, there are safety issues that you should be aware of.

First and foremost, powerboards should only ever be used for electrical appliances that operate at low currents, such as phone chargers, PC’s and laptops, TV’s, desk fans, lights, etc. It is strongly recommended that they should not be used for electrical appliances that operate at high currents, such as heaters, large fans, kettles, Urns, microwave ovens, etc. This is because one or more high current items plugged into a powerboard can very easily exceed the powerboard’s rated output, and result in overheating and fire.

As with double adaptors there are many powerboards on the market that do not have surge protection, but unlike double adaptors there are also many powerboards on the market that do have surge protection. Power boards with surge protection are becoming much more readily available, and less expensive as availability increases. Jez Test and Tag always recommends replacing non-surge protected powerboards with ones that at least have surge protection, and ideally with RCD protection as well.

Another safety issue often encountered is piggybacking of powerboards off each other. This is an extremely hazardous practice for the same reason as piggybacking double adaptors. It results in increased electrical load and significantly increases the risk of overheating, fire and electrocution. Jez Test and Tag does not recommend having more than one powerboard plugged into an electrical outlet (wall socket).

International Plugs

As a result of the increased amount of international travel that many businesses’ staff regularly undertake there is an increasing number of electrical appliances appearing in workplaces with international plugs.  These appliances are required to be tested as part of the test and tag process. As long as they are designed for use on 240v and meet all other relevant Australian Standards they are able to be tested under AS/NZS 3760:2010.  Jez Test and Tag provides testing of international electrical appliances.

A few “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to keep in mind

All of the equipment we have made reference to above is very familiar to us, and for that reason poses an increased hazard. This is because human nature tends to make us complacent around things we are familiar with, and when we become complacent we don’t keep an eye out for hazards.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and we should all be looking out for hazards in the workplace and at home. Electrical power is an invisible hazard and easy to overlook, which is all the more reason for vigilance when working around and using electrical equipment.
To offer some help in maintaining awareness when using this equipment here are a few simple rules to keep in mind.

Powerboards
Any powerboards you have in use should be checked regularly for signs of damage or overheating and to ensure that all connected plugs are firmly attached.  Remember that powerboards have a maximum current rating, and exceeding this can result in electrical shock or overheating and fire. Always be mindful of the type of appliances you connect and how much current they will draw, and never piggyback!

Only use powerboards that have surge protection, but remember surge protection only protects equipment and wiring. For protection of people a powerboard with an RCD is needed.  A good way to help maintain a powerboard is to mount them on a wall. It secures them and reduces accidental physical damage, and limits dust getting into any unused sockets.

Extension Cords
Cord Extension Sets are designed to be used as portable and temporary solutions. They are NOT designed to be a permanent installation and lack adequate external covering.

If you are using Cord Extension Sets outside it is best practice to suspend them overhead rather than laying them on the ground. Laying them on the ground creates a trip hazard, and increases the risk of them being damaged.  Always unwind Cord Extension Sets before using them.

Cord Extension Sets must be checked regularly. A good way to check them is to run your hand along the length of the cord (wear gloves) while checking for the following: –
• make sure there are no signs of damage to the outer covering (abrasions, cuts, etc);
• check for any lumps or distortions in the cord, this can indicate twisted or broken conductors;
• check the anchoring of both the plug and socket to make sure they are secured by the outer sheath, not merely the conductor wires.

If you join two Cord Extension Sets together or attach a powerboard make sure the overall length of the combined items doesn’t exceed the limits described in the table above. A useful rule of thumb is a standard 10amp extension cord (1.5mm2 conductor area) has a maximum allowable length of 35 metres.

REMEMBER, all electrical equipment, including leads and powerboards, generate heat!
Overheating is a major hazard so it is important to never place any electrical equipment near a heat source, and always provide sufficient ventilation around the equipment.

Plugs, Leads & Powerboards

Plugs, Leads & Powerboards

Most people take electrical appliances for granted, rarely giving them a second thought. This is even more so with the bits that hang off the appliance, or that the appliance hangs off. I’m talking about Plugs, Leads and Powerboards.

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