Avoid overkill on testing and tagging

When the CCI Safety and Risk Services team visit workplaces, a regularly asked question is whether electrical equipment testing and tagging is compulsory.

Some are going to unnecessarily expense and need to be aware of the facts before bowing to the hard sell tactics of businesses offering this type of service.

Some Members believe – falsely – that testing and tagging of RCDs and electrical equipment is a non-negotiable safety compliance exercise and therefore one of the many costs of doing business.

According to the Worksafe WA guide to testing and tagging portable electrical equipment, the term electrical equipment is used to describe electrical articles that are not part of a fixed electrical installation but are intended to be connected to an electricity supply (either fixed installation or generator) by a flexible cord or connecting device.

Typical examples are portable, hand-operated and moveable plug-in electrical appliances, flexible extension cords and power outlet devices.

The term residual current device (RCD) means a device intended to isolate supply to protected circuits, socket-outlets or electrical equipment in the event of a current flow to earth that exceeds a predetermined value.

Depending on the type of work undertaken will determine the nature of inspection and /or testing.

For workplaces engaging in construction or demolition, the OSH Regulations require the testing and tagging of portable electrical equipment or RCD to be carried out by a competent person.

There is also the requirement under regulations for the workplace to ensure compliance with AS/NZS 3012:2003 Electrical installations – Construction and demolition sites.

For all other workplaces, RCDs are required to be kept in a safe working condition and tested regularly.

A workplace must ensure that electrical equipment are subject to the appropriate checks, tests and inspections necessary to reduce the risk of injury or harm occurring to a person at that workplace.

In brief, for workplaces other than construction or demolition sites, portable electrical equipment and RCDs are not required to be tagged. However, there should be evidence that a maintenance program is in place.

The frequency of such inspection and maintenance programs varies for different work situations.

It is recommended inspection needs to be done more frequently if the equipment is in an environment where conditions would increase the likelihood of damage.

This ‘hostile environment’ as it is commonly referred to, may expose the equipment to water, chemicals, heat or mechanical damage where leads can flex during use or where mobile plant and equipment may pass over them.

If a workplace does introduce a regime of testing and tagging, then this can lead to other issues.

  • First, once a tag is in place there is the potential for staff to only check the next-test date on the tag during inspections and nothing else
  • Second, while the tag is an indicator the equipment was safe at the time of testing, it does not guarantee the item is safe the next day, one, six or 12 months in the future

Best practice then, is to ensure a visual inspection is done prior to any work with portable equipment as well as scheduled inspections of each work area where electrical equipment is used.

Finally, because the testing and tagging is required to be undertaken by a competent person (either by a third party or internally), there are costs incurred by the employer to ensure this is carried out.

Questions about electrical equipment testing and tagging can be directed to CCI’s OSH team at osh@cciwa.com or on (08) 9365 7415.

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