Work health and safety legislation is rather unspecific regarding the testing and tagging of electrical equipment. Although there are some specific requirements for construction and demolition sites, for farms the requirement is for farm owners and managers to 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 to reduce the risk of injury or harm occurring to a person at that workplace.
A competent person 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 two types of competent persons and competent methods that may be used to inspect, test and maintain electrical equipment are as follows:
- A licenced electrician using electrical test instruments that give actual readings and require technical interpretation, or
- a person not qualified in electrical work using a pass-fail type of electrical test instrument known as a portable appliance tester (PAT). The person would need to have been trained and have satisfactorily completed a competency-assessed training course on testing and tagging using a PAT.
Farms may decide to procure an external contractor to conduct electrical equipment inspection, testing and maintaining, or they may decide to procure training for any of their existing staff. This is a decision for each individual farm.
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. This could be with a register (such as the Equipment Register), a register provided by an external testing contractor or tags on the actual equipment.
For workplaces other than construction or demolition sites, there is no specific timeframe for the testing of electrical equipment. Instead, a risk-based approach should be considered based on the expected wear and tear of that equipment. We’ve provided the following risk-based schedule which we recommend farms consult when determining what frequency to conduct the testing of electrical equipment on their farm:
- Residential-type areas (homestead, office, staff quarters etc.): Once every 5 years or after a repair.
- Field areas (workshops, sheds, fields etc.): Once every year or after a repair.
- New appliances and cables are to be considered ‘tested’ at the time of purchase. 2nd-hand appliances and cables are to be tested upon purchase.
ProcessWorx has just finished developing a new Farm Work Health & Safety System that together with ProcessWorx’s support will greatly assist farmers to meet their WHS duty of care under the new WHS legislation.