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Test and Tag is the name given to the process of checking the safety of portable electrical appliances. It involves two parts: first visually inspecting the appliance for any damage, followed by electrically testing it with a Portable Appliance Tester.
Once tested, the item is placed with a tag to confirm that it has in fact been tested, along with showing who tested it, the test date and when the next test is due.
The primary reason behind doing testing and tagging is to ensure the safety of the people in the workplace coming into contact with the appliance, while also minimising the risk of an electrical hazard. If an accident does occur and no testing and tagging was previously completed on that item, the employer may be considered liable.
The AS/NZS 3760 is the New Zealand and Australian Standard that provides guidelines and regulations for the test and tag industry with regards to electrical safety of appliances. It sets our recommendations to issues such as test and tag intervals, defines who can test and tag and general recommendations. This Standard was recently updated in 2022 with a list of various changes, along with now being called the AS/NZS 3760:2022
Industries such as construction, demolition and mining are required to have their appliances tested and tagged every 3 months. This is because of the harsh nature of the industry which is likely to damage equipment at a faster rate. The test and tag colours will change for different periods throughout the year, which effectively make certain times of the year coincide with a specific test tag colour.
With the exception of these industries, testing and tagging is not a legislative requirement for other workplaces. However, the employer does have a duty of care to ensure the safety of its employees, meaning that if someone was hurt from an appliance that wasn’t tested and unsafe, they could be found liable. Because of this, it’s the employer’s responsibility to have all portable electrical appliances tested.
There is a common misconception that you must be an electrician to test and tag. However, according to AS/NZS 3760:2010, someone who is considered a ‘Competent Person’ is also able to test and tag in New Zealand. This is achieved by undertaking a test and tag course, where that person acquires the knowledge and skills in learning to use a PAT tester.
In short, any device that has a flexible cable, a removable plug and is not low voltage (not exceeding 50V). This includes extension leads, cord sets and portable RCD’s.
Generally, electrical appliances can be classed as either:
Class I – this is an earthed appliance i.e. kettles, irons and toasters
Class II – double insulated appliances, which are usually identified with a symbol (a square within a square) or with the words ‘Double Insulated’ i.e. most electric drills and hair dryers.
It's worth mentioning that new equipment doesn't need to be tested - just visually inspected and tagged.
The New Zealand Standards recommend particular test and tag frequencies based on the type of environment the appliance resides in. This is shown in the AS 3760 Standard via Table 2.4 which explains the minimum requirements. Sometimes, this might differ depending on a workplaces individual risk assessment.
For example, construction sites are tested generally every 3 months, whereas a factory or a warehouse will be 6 months.
A portable appliance tester, also known as a PAT Tester or PAT, is the main piece of equipment used by someone testing and tagging. It allows you to test an electrical appliance to ensure it's safe, which does so by giving you results on whether it passed or failed your particular tests.
There are many factors to consider before you buy an appliance tester, such as deciding on how much you want to spend (they range from $500 up to $3000) how much functionality you'll need and what kind features you want. There's also different brands to choose from, such as Metrel, Seaward and Wavecom. Generally, the more you spend will mean the more you'll get. Nowadays, you can easily read portable appliance tester reviews on every tester and figure out which is the best one for your needs.
It's worth noting that the majority of defects or faults are usually found during the visual inspection of the electrical appliance, which is conducted before you even use your appliance tester.