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You and OH&S

: Learn about the legislation in your state concerning safe electrical practices

Under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004), the employer has a legal obligation to ensure that the workplace and the plant at the workplace is safe and without risks to health (Section 21). This means identifying whether there are any hazards associated with electrical equipment, assessing the associated risks and taking measures to eliminate or control those risks.

WorkSafe Victoria advises that electrical safety testing and tagging for all plug-in equipment falls under the general obligations of Section 21(2)(a)of the Act. In the past, the VWA has advised all employers to introduce a safety testing protocol. In some workplaces (for example all government departments) it is considered more or less mandatory that all electrical equipment be checked and "tagged" regularly.

The Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS3760-2010 In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment is nationally accepted as the minimum safety protocol for the workplace, and applies to plug-in or non-fixed equipment. The VTHC has been advised that WorkSafe Victoria is now "actively enforcing the standard and inspecting all types of premises to confirm introduction of minimum safety testing programs consistent with AS/NZS 3760." The standard applies to all types of electrical equipment in offices, factories and so on (ie tools, machines, computers, even jugs and cooling fans).

How often should equipment be 'tested and tagged'?

The frequency of inspections that are outlined in Section 2 of the Standard, AS/NZS 3760:2010 are recommended but can be varied subject to a risk assessment that has been carried out in accordance with an appropriate risk assessment. The Australian standard includes a table that sets out testing and inspection intervals for various types of equipment from 3 months (for equipment that is high use, high risk, or hire equipment) to up to 5 years (for equipment that is not open to abuse, flexing of cords, etc). In addition to the regular testing and inspection, the standard specified that electrical equipment SHALL be inspected and tested:

Generally the following should be followed:

The checking and tagging of equipment as per AS/NZS 3760 can be done either by a qualified electrician or by someone who has successfully completed an approved course at a TAFE college. However, if you have concerns about the competency of the person undertaking the testing and tagging, then it would be safer to use a qualified electrician with expertise in this area. There are a number of electrical contractors who specialise in the checking and tagging equipment - check the Yellow Pages.

The Australian New Zealand Standard AS/NZS3760-2010 In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment is nationally accepted as the minimum safety protocol for the workplace, and applies to plug-in or non-fixed equipment. The VTHC has been advised that WorkSafe Victoria is now "actively enforcing the standard and inspecting all types of premises to confirm introduction of minimum safety testing programs consistent with AS/NZS 3760." The standard applies to all types of electrical equipment in offices, factories and so on (ie tools, machines, computers, even jugs and cooling fans).

WorkSafe WA has produced a Guide to testing and tagging portable electrical equipment and residual current devices at workplaces [pdf]

Lockout of plant

There are times when it is necessary to lockout or tagout electrical plant to ensure that it is not used. While the regulations do not specifically state what should be done in terms of lockout, WorkSafe has a Guidance Note Lock out and tagging of plant and Preventing electrical shock from power tools and electrical leads

In addition, EnergySafe Victoria, the newly established safety regulator responsible for electrical and gas safety in Victoria, Australia, has issued and recently revised, useful information:

ESV can be contacted on (03) 9203 9700 (electricity section) or you can go to its website.

Advice to Health and Safety representatives

Tagging and checking of all electrical equipment in accordance with AS3760 should now be the norm in all workplaces. If this is not the case in your workplace, as an OHS rep, you should approach your employer and request that this be done as soon as possible. If it is not done, then the employer is breaching his/her duty under Section 21. For more advice, contact your union.

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