Safety of Electrical Appliances

RCD Safety Switch - test and tag

People sometimes wonder who’s responsible for the safety of electrical appliances in the workplace. Is it the person who brings the appliance to the office or site? Is it the owner of the business? Or is it the responsibility of the person who tested and tagged the equipment?

Who is responsible for electrical safety? The answer is very clear cut. If you’re the owner of a business, then you are legally responsible for all safety in your workplace, not just electrical safety. You have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for everyone who visits your workplace including staff, visitors and customers. What steps do you need to take to ensure that the electrical appliances operated on your premises are safe?

Have electrical appliances tested and tagged      

The first step is to have all portable appliances that have a flexible cord, a removable plug and a voltage that exceeds 50V, tested and tagged. Testing and tagging is a process that involves a technician testing your appliances to ensure they are safe to use. The testing has two components — the first is a visual check for damage as most faulty appliances first fail the visual check. The second component is a stringent electrical test conducted using a Portable Appliance tester. Once the appliance has been tested, it is tagged with a label which records when it was tested, the name of the tester, the results of the test and the date the next test is due.

Test every appliance that meets the criteria – even those that don’t belong to the business

Many business owners don’t realise that they’re responsible for every appliance. If someone in the business brings a faulty kettle into the premises and it sparks an electrical fire or causes an electrical accident (such as burning someone or causing an electric shock) then you could be liable because you have failed in your responsibility to provide a safe working environment.

Make sure that staff and new starters know that they can’t bring an appliance onto the premises unless they have had it tested and tagged themselves, or it is tested and tagged as part of your process. 

Check the cupboards for appliances that aren’t used very often

It’s easy to forget to check the cupboards for appliances that aren’t used often as they can pose a safety risk. Make sure when the test and tag technician is on site that you get out the column heaters that only get used in winter and the portable fans that have been gathering dust on top of a cupboard since last summer.

Keep a record of the appliances that have been tested

It’s good practice to keep a record of all the appliances that are tested. Your test and tag technician should do this as part of their service, but it’s a good idea to make sure that you have a copy for your files and that the technician also keep ones on file. It’s an important record that you may need to rely on for an insurance claim or in the event of an electrical accident to prove that you took all precautions possible to ensure the electrical appliances in your business were safe to use.

Discard any faulty appliances

Appliances that fail the test and tag process must be discarded because they haven’t passed the test and have therefore been deemed unsafe to use. Don’t assume that they’ve been discarded. Make sure they get checked off the list and disposed of safely.

Get all your appliances tagged with the same colour

In some industries, such as building and construction, it’s a legal requirement that appliances are tagged with a particular colour depending on the season in which the test was conducted. For most industries, there’s no requirement to use one colour. But it’s a good idea to ask your technician to use one tag colour for every appliance on the premises and to use a different tag colour the next time they visit.

That’s because it makes it easier for you as the business owner and person responsible for electrical safety to tell immediately that an appliance is safe to use. If all the current tags are yellow and you notice that the accounts team have a heater in their area with a burgundy tag, then it wasn’t tested on the last test date and was either forgotten (in which case its test is overdue) or it’s been brought from another site in which case you need to check that the tag is still current.

Put processes in place for Test and Tag in your business

Set a regular schedule

Testing and tagging shouldn’t just be a one-off. It’s a process that should be conducted regularly in your business. In some industries, it’s mandated that test and tag happens every three months, but for most businesses, appliances need to be tested every six months. Your test and tag technician will advise you when they visit of the next testing date (and it will also be recorded on each appliance).

Use one test and tag supplier

It’s a good idea to use one test and tag supplier for your business and to develop a relationship with them over time, getting them to test and tag your appliances every time they are due for a test.

Developing a relationship with one test and tag supplier

This helps you know when the next test is due, because you can ask them to contact you with a reminder. It also helps with recordkeeping because they not only have the records of your most recent testing but a historical record of all the testing and tagging that has been completed in your business over the period you have been dealing with them.

This could be important in the event of an accident or an insurance claim, but it also has other benefits. For example, if you have a number of failed items every time the technician visits, then over time patterns can become apparent, such as the failed items always being in a particular area of the premises. This could indicate a problem with the wiring, or a problem with how the appliances are being used by the staff in that department. With electrical safety, prevention is the name of the game, so being able to identify dangerous patterns and address them before they become an issue is invaluable.

Choose a reputable supplier

Some people think that as long as they get their appliances tested and tagged, they have fulfilled their responsibilities. But as the business owner, you are still deemed to be responsible. So, it’s of vital importance to ensure that the person who conducts testing and tagging for you is a competent person who is qualified to conduct testing and tagging under the Australian and New Zealand Safety Standard AS NZS 3760.2010. Test & Tag have over 150 franchises across Australia and their technicians are fully qualified and undergo regular training in test and tag. You can be sure you’re in safe hands with Jim’s Test & Tag.

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