When we go to work, we have a reasonable expectation that the electrical equipment that we use on a daily basis will be safe for us to operate. This applies to the kettle in the office staff room to the computers we sit at, the machinery we operate and the fixtures that provide lighting, heating and cooling to our workplaces.
All appliances in a workplace – along with safety switches, extension leads and any other device that will carry electricity – must be tested and tagged by a licenced and qualified electrician. This must be done regularly to ensure they meet the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 3760) for electrical safety.
The process involves a visual inspection to look for any damage on the appliance, cord, machinery or device before testing is completed with a portable appliance.
Who can test and tag electrical equipment in the workplace?
Under the Electrical Safety Act 2002, it is an offence to test and tag workplace appliances without the proper certifications.
The Electrical Safety Regulation 2013 Act states that a person must be deemed competent to carry out the work, usually meaning a licenced and certified electrician.
Various competencies are required to test equipment, which is carried out by registered training organisations and come with statements of attainment. These requirements do change from state to state, though. Check with your relevant authority before doing anything yourself:
- Victoria: Victoria Workcover Authority
- New South Wales: SafeWork NSW
- Queensland: Electrical Safety Office
- Western Australia: WorkSafe WA Commission
- South Australia: SafeWork SA
- Tasmania: Workplace Standards Tasmania
- Northern Territory: WorkSafe NT
- ACT: WorkSafe ACT
While some industries will have staff on the books that have completed these competencies, in most cases you will require a qualified professional to complete the work.
How often should you get your appliances tested and tagged?
There are different requirements for testing and tagging depending on the type of equipment, where it is housed and/or stored and the type of work it does. New electrical equipment has the loosest regulations, requiring only a visual inspection before being tagged.
The AS/NZS 3760 standard recommends the following intervals as the bare minimum for testing and tagging:
- Building, construction and demolition workplaces: Every three months;
- Factories, warehouses and production environments: Every six months;
- Any environment where the equipment or cord is prone to flexing or being damaged: Annually;
- Environments where the appliances or cords are not likely to be flexed or damaged: Every five years
This should only be treated as a guide, though, and most individual workplaces have their own OHS standards and timelines for testing and tagging.
There are also different types available in different colours for clear distinctions on when the device was tested. These colour-coded tags are red (December to February), green (March to May), Blue (June to August) and yellow (September to November).
It is a requirement in the construction and demolition industries to use these colour-coded tags, but it is not a legislated requirement in other industries. Other businesses can feel free to use the colours as per their own personal choice.