There’s a lot of discussion about whether to hire a PAT testing service or do your electrical safety compliance in-house. Weigh up the pros and cons for yourself.
According to Australian federal and state legislations, every worksite and place of employment using electrical appliances must be certified for safe operation of those appliances.
Basically, if you’re plugging anything in to a wall socket or a private generator, you’re going to need to get it checked out. (For that 0.001% of people who don’t use electricity in their workplace, you can take an early mark today and go surfing).
That checking process is then verified by putting a tag on all the approved appliances. The whole shebang is known by the somewhat intuitive name of test and tag, or sometimes by the acronym PAT, (for Portable Appliance Testing).
How does a test and tag service actually help me meet Australian Standards for WHS compliance?
These services must be carried out by someone with an electrical certification – that’s mandated federally, but in state to state the level and nature and indeed the quality of certificate may vary.
In some cases they might provide your standard sparkie full-service package as well, but in others they might just charge you five dollars a pop to have a squiz at your leads and whack a sticker on them.
What they should do is:
- Carry out tests using instruments such as an ohmmeter and insulation resistance meter as well as verifying your setup and your RCDs, (residual current devices or circuit breaker devices).
- They should hold insurance to the nines so that you feel safe using their services.
- And they should be up-to-date with equipment, with the amendments to Australian Standards and with state and industry requirements.
However, it’s your responsibility as an employer or workplace officer to guarantee that the contractor carrying out these services is competent and eligible to actually provide them. That seems like a backwards way of doing things, but it ties into the fact that ultimately you’re the one in charge of electrical safety in your environment.
Is it safer or cheaper to perform in-house test and tag procedures, and what does the Australian Standards say about this?
Depending on the type of work you perform and the equipment that you use, it may actually be more reasonable to carry out testing and tagging yourself. There’s a second layer in the AS/NZS 3760 that allows for a competent person to perform basic in-house test and tag operations – that competent person could be you or an employee.
Under the relevant Australian law, competency in this case is defined as being demonstrably able to carry out such tasks by experience, knowledge or training or a combination thereof. Basically, what this means is that you have to do a course that should take about a day. You’ll just need to find a course provider in your area and order your own tags from a vendor such as Test Tag Outlet.
After this, you’re qualified to carry out basic inspections by yourself and certify your equipment as safe to operate – AKA test and tag.
For many businesses that don’t necessarily need to contract a sparkie every six months, this is probably a better route to go. It’s definitely cheaper, and it’s always helpful to have knowledge of the electrical systems that you’re using and the regulations that cover their use.
Remember – electrical safety is your responsibility, and if the law isn’t enough to push you into action then the threat of an unsafe workplace should be.