Why must I inspect, test and maintain my electrical equipment?

The Australian Standards AS/NZS 3760:2010, AS/NZS 3012:2010, Safe Work Australia Code of practice and WorkCover Code of Practice, state that all employers, or self-employed persons, have a duty of care to ensure that employees and visitors to the workplace are safe from injury and risks to health. You must therefore manage any safety risks surrounding electrical hazards in accordance with the requirements. To do so you are required to institute and maintain a systematic risk management approach to eliminate or control the risk of electrical hazards. After the risk assessment, you can then implement a range of control measures including: - routine visual checks - regular inspection - maintenance - repair - replacement - use of residual current devices (RCDs) - and, where warranted or required, testing of identified electrical equipment.

Click here to see the current (2017) Work Health and Safety act.

Once an item has been tested is it safe?

Items tested correctly are found to be either safe to use, or unsafe for use. However even with items found to be safe, damage or faults can appear later. Similar to a car rego check, the vehicle if inspected correctly is found to be roadworthy, but usage, damage or accidents may make the car unsafe shortly after. Test and Tag inspections will ensure that at the time of testing the item was safe for use, wear and tear, liquid spills, accidents or damage may make the item unsafe even shortly after testing, as such it is the operators responsibility to have in place a regular maintenance, damage minimisation and inspection program to ensure that each item is safe to use before operating or using the appliance.

What happens to faulty items?

Any item found to be dangerous or faulty must have a failed tag applied, showing that the item is dangerous and should not be used, it should be reported or taken to the business owner or safety officer and be immediately removed from service, the item may be repaired or replaced, but must not be used before it has been repaired and re tested.

Are there any special requirements for construction work?

Yes. Due to the nature of construction work regular inspection and testing of electrical equipment is warranted and must be carried out. The requirements are outlined in the WorkCover Code of Practice - Electrical practices for construction work. They state that all portable electrical items, tools leads and RCD's must be inspected and tested and tagged at least once every three months.

Click here to see the current NSW code of practice for electrical testing in construction

What requirements apply to hired electrical equipment?

Electrical equipment that is being hired out, must be inspected each time before leaving the premises and must be inspected, tested and tagged every three months.

What about new, or repaired items?

New items do not need to be tested and tagged, in most cases they must have a tag stating that the item is new to service and the date at which it should be tested, we recommend however that even new items be tested as some are found to have faults out of the factory.

What is a hostile working environment?

The code often speaks about a hostile work environment. This does not relate to issues or fights between employees. When using the description: "Hostile Environment" the code is referring to a working environment where the electrical equipment is normally subjected to movement, events or operating conditions likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected life span. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Physical or mechanical damage
  • Exposure to:
    o moisture
    o heat
    o vibration
    o corrosive chemicals
    o dust
    o fumes

What is a Portable Appliance Tester (PAT)?

A PAT is an electronic testing instrument designed to perform a range of automatic tests on plug-in type electrical equipment and to find and identify any unseen faults as outlined in AS/NZS 3760:2010.

Do I need to have my mobile phone or cordless tool charger tested?

If a charger is plugged into a 240 volt power supply then it must be tested, this is to check for physical damage and any hidden electrical danger, such as damage to the transformer, or an incorrect or dangerous current on the low voltage side, sadly each year some have been injured or killed by a standard mobile phone charger that was damaged, faulty, or a poorly made replacement, so all chargers must be checked including cordless phones and similar appliances. Please feel free to email if you have any further questions. Also note that the information supplied here is based on the relevant acts or codes, however it is not intended to be information on which any person would act, but simply as a guide to the act and safety steps that can be of assistance.