Many people are confused by this topic, and some people (falsely) believe that electrical testing and tagging is required in all workplaces.
There is no legislative requirement for electrical “test and tag” under the Victorian OHS regulations, and the harmonised WHS regulations (now applying to; NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, NT and ACT) only prescribe periodic electrical testing and keeping of records for ‘hostile’ work environments. The WA OSH Regulations (Reg 4.37) require inspections of plant per manufacturer’s recommendations.
Note: Terms like “mandatory” in codes or standards do not mean they are a legal requirement, but merely that they are necessary to comply with the particular standard.
What is a ‘hostile’ environment?
A ‘hostile work environment’ is defined by Australian Standard AS 3760: In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment as one in where:
- Lead flexes during use (e.g. portable power tools); or
- Where the equipment is exposed to;
- Steam, or
- Mechanical damage such as leads on floor where trolleys or vehicles could pass over them.
The WHS Regulations provide a similar definition of the workplaces where periodic inspection of electrical equipment and record keeping is required, but does not prescribe tagging of equipment. Note: The general duty of care in every jurisdiction requires a process to ensure safe tools and equipment, but does not specifically require tags.
Problem with electrical Test & Tag
There are two main problems with electrical test and tag. One is that the tag does not guarantee the item is safe tomorrow, let alone 6 or 12 months in to the future. The second problem is that once you place tags on equipment the only thing people tend to check during inspections is the next test date on the tag, not whether it is physically safe.
A better way to ensure safety of electrical equipment
Given that a tag cannot ensure the ongoing safety of any piece of equipment on its own, then clearly a better solution is needed in order to satisfy your ongoing duty of care in providing ‘safe tools and equipment’.
Best practice organisations instruct all relevant staff to conduct pre-use visual inspections prior to any work with portable equipment, in addition to including ‘electrical equipment’ in periodic inspections of each work area eg office.
For example, monthly inspections of office areas could include items such as ‘is all electrical equipment in good condition, no exposed inner wires or live parts present, no obvious damage’.
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