Why Test and Tag Electrical Equipment?

Learn the importance of electrical testing and tagging and how you can ensure your equipment is always safe to use.

Safety workplace trained competent electrician setting holding red electricity tester

What is Electrical Test and Tag?

Electrical testing and tagging inspect portable electrical appliances for safety and identifying any faults. It helps track the inspected items and keep them up-to-date according to electrical safety standards. The tags also alert workers and management about when the test should occur again, helping avoid potential accidents from faulty equipment.

Electrical test and tag involve the following processes:

1. Visual inspection to ensure electrical equipment is in sound physical condition
2. Electrical testing using special equipment to check and ensure there are no faults
3. Tagging the appliance showing the test date, the next test date, and who tested it

Benefits of Testing and Tagging

  • The testing will ensure that the items work correctly and that there are no electrical problems, allowing them to function as efficiently as possible.
  • The tags inform employees how to use the items safely and correctly.
  • The process ensures the business complies with current safety protocols, preventing any issues with regulations.
  • Testing and tagging can detect minor issues before they become costly, making your electrical equipment maintenance more efficient.
  • Testing and tagging promote safety for everyone working near electrical devices, appliances, and other equipment, avoiding fines and potential lawsuits.

How Frequently Should You Conduct the Test and Tag Process?

The Australian Standards and regulations require specific maintenance and management frequencies for appliances, which depend on their location and use. The AS 3760 Standard’s Table 4 further outlines the baseline safety requirements, although they may vary based on a workplace’s specific risk assessment.
Below are the different intervals for testing and tagging:

  • Conduct inspections every 3 months for construction, building, and demolition industries.
  • Perform an inspection every 6 months in warehouses, factories, and production facilities.
  • Places such as schools, offices, and office kitchens, where equipment or cords could be flexed or abused, should be checked every 12 months.
  • All equipment and cord sets should be checked in server rooms at least once every 5 years to ensure they are not prone to flexing or being damaged.

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Which Industries Need to Test and Tag?

The harsh environment in industries like construction, demolition, and mining necessitates testing and tagging appliances every 3 months. The test tag colors change every three months, helping identify different testing periods over a year.

While testing and tagging are mandatory in these industries, it’s ultimately the employer’s responsibility to ensure their employees are safe for other sectors. Therefore, they should have all portable electrical appliances tested, even if it isn’t a legislative requirement. Otherwise, they may be liable if someone gets hurt by an unsafe appliance.

For those in the rental business, specific standards need to be met. It’s necessary for the hirer to inspect the appliances visually before every lease and to test them every 3 months while they are under their care.

Who Can Test and Tag Electrical Equipment?

Contrary to popular belief, an electrician is not the only one who can test and tag as per AS/NZS 3760:2010. Completing a test and tag course, any ‘Competent Person’ will gain all the necessary knowledge to use a Portable Appliance Tester (PAT) tester.

After you’re qualified, you can’t obtain a new certificate or take more courses. You will, however, need to maintain your current knowledge and skills per the AS 3760 Standard by keeping up with any changes.

What Types of Equipment are Tested and Tagged?

Any electrical equipment with a voltage of less than 50V and a detachable plug is considered portable. Plugged appliances must meet the inspection, testing, and tagging requirements. It includes extension cords or harnesses up to 2.5 m high in any work or industry area.

Electrical appliances are classified either as Class I or Class II.

  • Class I – Common household appliances like kettles, washing machines, and toasters provide two-level protection using an earth wire and basic insulation.
  • Class II – These include appliances with a double wall of insulation and are named double-insulated machines. These are typically represented with a double square image (a square within another square) near the voltage and energy gauges. Examples include clothes dryers, lawnmowers, and drills.

FAQs About Electrical Testing and Tagging

A Portable Appliance Tester, otherwise known as a PAT Tester, is an essential tool for anyone conducting testing and tagging. It can identify any potential hazards with electrical items by providing pass-or-fail results on the appliance in question.

The legal necessity of electrical testing and tagging varies from country to country and according to industry. For instance, it’s compulsory for companies working in the construction, demolition, and mining industries in Australia, the UK, or New Zealand.

If you fail to test and tag your electrical equipment, you are putting yourself and others at risk of injury or even death. Electrical faults can cause fires, electric shocks, and other serious accidents. Failing to comply with the relevant electrical safety standards can also lead to hefty fines or lawsuits.

Contrary to popular belief, hiring a professional contractor for testing and tagging is usually more cost-effective than doing it yourself. Cost isn’t the only factor to consider; there is also the time it takes to learn, write a report, and manage the training program to take into account, which can be more expensive.

When inspecting new equipment, all that is necessary is a visual assessment and tagging. Check for any visible damage, defects, modifications, or discoloration. Also, examine if the flexible cables are correct and ensure none of the internal wirings have been exposed through outside sheath cuts or damages. Look for spreading terminals, twisted conductors, or broken fillings by using your hands to feel along the length of the cord.

Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. Before joining SafetyCulture, he worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade. Rob's diverse professional background allows him to provide well-rounded, engaging content that can help businesses transform the way they work.