Testing refers generally to fault-finding or verification of equipment and work (electrical and/or data communications) and is an integral part of work

involving installations, improvements, repairs or maintenance, often requiring sophisticated and expensive equipment to be used by trained and experienced personnel eg thermographic testing of switchboards to assess potential fire risks.

Electrical Testing

Testing and Tagging

refers specifically to legislative requirements to ensure certain equipment, tools and appliances (eg drills, RCDs) remain safe and functional in the workplace, and in many cases tests must be recorded (and devices tagged) by a trained and authorised person eg a licensed electrician.

Testing and Tagging is often incorporated in a programmed maintenance process including services such as:

  • emergency light testing
  • smoke alarm testing
  • RCD testing
  • testing of tools and appliances
  • load testing and load balancing
  • thermal imaging
  • power quality testing
  • electrical safety audits and reports
  • LAN testing
  • energy audits

WorkSafe, part of the WA Government Department of Commerce, has a very useful document entitled ‘Guide to Testing and Tagging …’ which is summarised below.

With such a responsibility and record keeping burden, it’s not surprising that most employers and many construction firms engage ComSpark to conduct and manage their testing and tagging. Our comprehensive computerised recording and online reporting provides peace of mind and ease of access.

Guide to testing and tagging portable electrical equipment and residual current devices at workplaces

Objective
The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (OSH Act) and Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 require electrical equipment at workplaces to be safe and not expose workers to hazards.

As prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 and Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995, the person having control of a workplace or access to that workplace, i.e. employer, self-employed person, main contractor, must ensure that all portable plug-in electrical equipment and residual current devices (RCDs) at the workplace are safe and appropriately inspected, tested and maintained by a competent person.

Definitions
The term electrical equipment is used here 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 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.

For construction and demolition sites, the following documentation must be kept for all electrical equipment and RCDs:

  • register of all equipment;
  • record of formal inspections and tests;
  • repair register; and
  • record of all faulty equipment showing details of services and corrective actions.

When a worker brings portable electrical equipment or an RCD to a construction or demolition site, he or she must, before usage, provide the main contractor with a record of the relevant testing data. This practice should be followed at other workplaces.

With such a record keeping burden and responsibility, it’s not surprising that most employers and many construction firms engage ComSpark to conduct and manage their testing and tagging. Our comprehensive computerised recording and online reporting provides peace of mind and ease of access.

Note that while electricity is connected to a wide variety of equipment and appliances, ComSpark does not test the performance of the equipment/appliance itself; but only its connectivity and electrical safety. Specific equipment should be supported by the relevant distributors in the first instance. So if, for example, your drill is malfunctioning; your first port of call is the supplier of that product. They will let you know if the problem requires or may require an electrician, and ComSpark works in cooperation with the most reputable vendors to ensure efficient and reliable connectivity so that performance can be safely resumed. If in doubt, you may also engage us to test the electrical aspects of your physical equipment, including a comprehensive energy savings audit.

If you require an electrical testing job, call us now on 08 6336 7210 to arrange a time for us to perform any of the above works, or to organise a preventative maintenance programme, or you can simply book online.

What legislation applies?

Regulation 3.60 of the OSH regulations requires that all RCDs be kept in a safe working condition and tested regularly.

Regulation 4.37 of the OSH regulations deals with the duties as to the use of any electrical equipment or RCD at all workplaces. Under this regulation, an employer, self-employed person, main contractor, person having control of a workplace or person having control of access to a workplace must ensure that electrical equipment and RCDs at the workplace 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.

Regulation 3.61 of the OSH regulations requires the employer, self-employed person or main contractor at a workplace to ensure compliance with Australian Standard AS/NZS 3012:2003 Electrical installations – Construction and demolition sites.

This standard sets out minimum requirements for the design, construction and testing of electrical installations that supply electricity to appliances and equipment on construction and demolition sites. It also sets out minimum requirements for the in-service testing of RCDs and portable, relocatable and fixed electrical equipment used on construction and demolition sites.

Regulation 3.62 of the OSH regulations requires the testing and tagging of portable electrical equipment or a portable RCD on any construction or demolition site to be carried out by a competent person. The tester’s name must appear on the tag, along with the test or re-test date, as specified in AS/NZS 3012:2003. If the tester is a licensed electrician, the tester’s licence number must also be included on the tag.

Regulation 3.63 of the OSH regulations, states that any worker bringing a portable item of electrical equipment or RCD to a construction or demolition site that is required to be tested under AS/NZS 3012:2003, must, before the item is used:
provide the main contractor with a record of the relevant testing data; and
ensure the tag bears the name of the competent person who conducted the test.
Who may test electrical equipment?
A competent person must undertake the testing of electrical equipment. This is a person who has acquired, through training, qualification or experience, or a combination of these, the knowledge and skills required to test electrical equipment competently.

The testing of electrical equipment requires specific expertise and interpretation of results and, therefore, can only be carried out by appropriately qualified or trained people who are able to recognise electrical hazards or potentially unsafe conditions.

The two levels of competency associated with this type of work are summarised below.
The first is where a licensed electrician with electrical qualifications and skills uses electrical test instruments that give actual readings requiring technical interpretation (eg. licensed electrician using an insulation resistance meter and ohmmeter).
The second is where a person not qualified in electrical work uses a pass–fail type of electrical test instrument known as a portable appliance tester (PAT), which automatically tests electrical equipment plugged into it. The result requires no technical interpretation. In this case, the person would need to have been trained and have satisfactorily completed a competency-assessed training course on testing and tagging using a PAT. The course needs to have been conducted by a registered training organisation accredited to deliver the training under the vocational education and training (VET) system.
Who may inspect electrical equipment?
The inspection of electrical equipment does not require tagging unless the electrical equipment is being used on a construction or demolition site or mining operation.

Inspections of electrical equipment not on construction or demolition sites or mining operation may range from the users of equipment regularly inspecting the equipment and reporting damage or potential damage to the employer, to a more formal inspection program for high risk equipment.

Who may inspect electrical equipment will depend upon the risk associated with the equipment and the level of knowledge required to assess whether the equipment is damaged. A further consideration is whether the person carrying out the inspection will be required to remove the equipment from use and refer it for further assessment by a competent person, or is competent to fully assess the condition of the electrical equipment at the time of inspection.

Who may test residual current devices?

The test for the operating time of an RCD requires specific technical expertise and interpretation of results and, therefore, can only be carried out by an appropriately qualified or trained person. This means a licensed electrician or a person who has successfully completed a competency-assessed training course in the use of an RCD tester.

The course needs to have been conducted by a registered training organisation accredited to deliver the training under the vocational education and training (VET) system.

More stringent requirements apply in the case of construction sites and mining operations.
Construction and demolition sites – The tests on RCDs must be carried out by a competent person in accordance with the requirements of AS/NZS 3012:2003 and each test result must be recorded.
Mining operations – Where a portable RCD is used at a mine, the employer must ensure that it is kept in a safe working condition and tested on a regular basis by a competent person; and where a non-portable RCD device is installed at the mine, the employer must ensure that each device is kept in a safe working condition and tested on a regular basis by a licensed electrician.
Who may inspect residual current device?
Where a portable RCD is used at a workplace, the employer or self-employed person must ensure that it is kept in a safe working condition and tested regularly by a competent person.

Where a non-portable RCD device is installed at a workplace, the person with control of the workplace must ensure that it is kept in a safe working condition and tested regularly by a competent person.

What are the tagging requirements?

After inspecting or testing portable electrical equipment or an RCD used on a construction or demolition site or mining operation, the item must be tagged. Tagging should also be undertaken following the inspection or testing of a non-portable RCD.

The tagging must be done by a competent person and in accordance with AS/NZS 3012:2003. The name of the competent person who performed the test must be clearly and legibly marked on the tag.

Workers who bring portable electrical equipment or an RCD to a construction or demolition site or mining operation must ensure the attached tag is current and bears the name of the competent person who conducted the test, and the test or re-test date.

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

What needs to be inspected, tested and tagged, and how often?

All portable electrical equipment and RCDs used in a workplace must be regularly inspected and tested in accordance with the OSH or MSI regulations, as appropriate.

The frequency of inspection and testing varies for different work situations:
construction and demolition sites – the inspection and testing intervals must be in accordance with AS/NZS 3012:2003;
mining operations – quarterly testing and tagging must be carried out on all portable appliances normally used in heavy operating environments such as workshops, mining areas, processing areas, construction sites and similar places; and
all other workplaces – require a risk management approach to determine the type of inspection and if necessary any testing required.
Inspection needs to be done more frequently in an operating environment where electrical equipment is, during normal usage, subjected to adverse operating conditions likely to result in damage to the electrical equipment,eg. potential exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, corrosive chemicals or mechanical damage. The risk assessment should determine where more specific testing of electrical equipment is necessary and the frequency of such testing.

Who may authorise workers to ‘test and tag’?

Irrespective of who does the work, the worker must be authorised by the employer for the workplace. The person authorising the work must be satisfied that:
the inspection and testing program is appropriate and adequate for the needs of the workplace; and
the workers carrying out testing and tagging are competent to do the work (i.e.licensed electrician or appropriately trained competent person).
Note: Competent persons will need to produce their statement of attainment or certificate on request to an employer, WorkSafe or mines inspector as appropriate, main contractor, labour hire organisation, a person having control of or control of access to a workplace, or an elected occupational safety and health representative.

What happens with damaged or non-complying equipment?

People who inspect and test portable electrical equipment and RCDs have a responsibility to:

identify any defects affecting safety; and
record and label faulty equipment.
Where testing identifies equipment that is damaged or non-complying, it must be withdrawn from service immediately.

When electrical equipment or an RCD at a work place has been damaged such that the risk of injury or harm to a person is increased, the employer, main contractor, self-employed person, or person having control of or control of access to the workplace must ensure that the item is:
immediately tagged ‘out of service’ against further use; and
a competent person assesses the item, or
the item is discarded
The competent person should assess the extent of the damage and advise the nature of the damage and whether the item can be repaired.

For electrical equipment, including cords and plugs, connected to a supply of electricity of up to 240 V, the competent person may undertake ‘like-for-like’ replacement of components.

However, any other or further repairs should only be performed by a licensed electrician, the equipment manufacturer or an authorised service agent.

After components have been replaced or other repairs completed, the electrical equipment must be inspected and tested by the competent person before returning it to service.

What records need to be kept?

Copies of the results of all inspections, tests and maintenance should be retained by the relevant duty holder and the competent person who carried out the work if not employed by the equipment owner. In particular, the following information should be kept:
name of the person who made the inspection or carried out the test or maintenance;
date on which, or dates over which, the inspection was made or the test or maintenance was carried out;
result or outcome of the inspection, test or maintenance;
date by which the next inspection and test should be carried out;
if applicable, licence or certificate number of the competent person who carried out the electrical inspections and tests; and
if applicable, plant number or inspection number of the item or items inspected.
Where required by regulation, the record may be a logbook, register or a computerised database, and should be located conveniently so that managers can access the information. The employer should also keep a record of how the competency for the person who carried out the testing and tagging was determined. WorkSafe and mines inspectors, as appropriate, have the right to examine the records kept by employers.