Safe use and testing of electrical equipment in schools
This page outlines your health and safety responsibilities around the safe use of electrical equipment and testing of that equipment to reduce the risk to people using it.
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Under section 30 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the PCBU (Board, Proprietor and Principal) are required to manage the risks to health and safety of their schools. If they cannot be eliminated, the risk must be minimized so far as reasonably practicable. Ensuring electrical equipment is in safe working condition, by including regular testing is a crucial part of reducing risk to students, staff and potential visitors and must be managed appropriately.
- Your health and safety responsibilities
- Testing and tagging of electrical appliances
- Which equipment must be tested
- Testing the equipment
- Tagging tested equipment
- Power boards
- Further information
Making sure electrical equipment is used correctly and operating safely is part of your overall health and safety responsibilities and will help you meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link) and the Electricity (Safety) Regulations(external link)
There is a legal duty to ensure that electrical appliances/equipment are electrically safe and maintained in good condition. Testing and tagging to AS/NZS 3760 by a trained and competent person is not a mandatory requirement but it is one method of demonstrating that reasonably practicable steps have been taken to ensure the health and safety of people in the workplace.
Testing and tagging electrical appliances and cords is a useful way to check that electrical equipment is safe. The person completing the testing and tagging must be competent and must use the appropriate test equipment. They should record the tests conducted and the values/results of those tests should be retained.
As well as test and tag, which is a good minimum, you can increase the level of your electrical equipment safety by:
- Where possible, install earth leakage protection to all circuits supplying socket outlets this can be through RCD’s installed in the switch board or by replacing socket outlets with RCD face plates.
- Where fitting of RCD’s to the existing wiring installation is not currently possible, portable RCD’s should be used to protect appliances.
- Ensuring users of electrical appliances perform regular checks of the appliances they use. Equipment checks should include:
signs of damage, e.g. to cords
regularly check that safety equipment, switches and safety guards function (where applicable).
Testing and tagging doesn’t guarantee future electrical safety, what it does is provide a snapshot of how safe the appliance is at the time of testing.
The New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 3760:2010 sets out details on how to ensure safety and compliance through testing and tagging of electrical cords. The Standard sets out:
- testing equipment
- tagging appliances when tested
- recording test results over the life of the appliance
You can buy a copy of the standard from Catalogue — Standards New Zealand(external link).
You should test all equipment that’s designed to be plugged into the standard power supply, i.e:
- portable outlet devices or power boards
- extension cords that are connected to equipment
- battery chargers
- portable heavy-duty tools.
You don’t need to test equipment if:
- it’s very unlikely anyone could get an electric shock by touching the item and the electrical ground at the same time
- the equipment would need to be dismantled to be tested
- the equipment is fixed and is wired directly into the wall
- they are computer cabling or mains outlets.
You don’t have to test the cables that go through your school buildings (electrical installations). However, be aware that to keep your school safe, you need to maintain all building services, which includes cabling.
You need to regularly re-test equipment. The Standard advises how often.
Whoever does the testing must have the knowledge and skills to do the task correctly. It doesn’t need to be a registered electrician but the person needs to be able to understand the Standards involved. For example, a staff member, caretaker or parent can do it if properly trained. You’re responsible for making sure the person is properly trained. However only a registered electrician will be able to fix any problems the testing finds.
Visit the Electrical Workers Registration Board(external link) website for more information and to arrange training if required.
If you think a tester is going too far in suggesting what you have to comply with, refer them back to the Standard.
How often should the equipment be tested?
This will depend on the nature of the equipment and the workplace. For example electrical equipment used in a workshop would need more frequent testing than equipment used in a teaching space. The Standard AS/NZS 3760:2010 contains guidance on:
- frequency of inspections, and
- tests on electrical equipment such as electric cords, cord extensions sets and residual current devices (RCDs).
Using this Standard as a guide, testing electrical cords every 2 years would be appropriate when used in normal educational situations. It should be noted that the maximum length of time between tests is 5 years.
Test every 12 months if the electric cords and equipment used in your school is:
- subject to flexing in normal use
- open to abuse, or
- used in hostile environments such as exposure to conditions of moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals and dust.
If you employ someone to do your testing, they'll charge by the item or an hourly rate. If you feel the charges are unreasonable, search online to get an idea of how much you should pay. Generally, 15 items tested in an hour is reasonable.
You can control costs by:
- buying or hiring testing equipment and having a staff member do the testing
- sharing the cost of testing equipment and training with other schools.
The tester must tag all equipment that’s passed the test. The supplier of the tester will be able to provide you with tags. The tag must include the date of the test, the person who did the test and the result of the test.
Schools should maintain a database of all test records to:
- provide an accurate history of equipment
- demonstrate whether testing has been up to date
- communicate any issues or other to staff or contractors.
Details should include:
- asset ID
- test results
- sites and locations of equipment
- re-test dates
- asset description
- make and model
- serial number
- any additional notes.
Power boards (also known as multi-plugs, multi-boards or multi-boxes) should only be plugged into an electrical outlet to ensure a good supply of electricity and limit the potential for shocks or fires.
Multi-boxes are not designed for appliances, such as heaters, that draw large amounts of electricity.
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