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.
- Your health and safety responsibilities
- Safety with plug-in electrical appliance
- Power boards
- Testing standards
- Which equipment must be tested
- Testing the equipment
- Tagging tested equipment
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 and the Electricity (Safety) Regulations: .
Connecting electrical equipment to an RCD (residual current device) protected supply should be sufficient protection against significant harm, such as electric shock, in the event of a fault.
Equipment to be used should be checked for signs of damage, e.g. to cords, and regularly check that safety equipment, switches and safety guards function (where applicable).
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.
Testing and tagging electrical appliances and cords is a useful way to check that electrical equipment is safe. It is not a mandatory requirement but there is a legal duty to ensure that equipment is electrically safe and maintained in good condition. The process of testing and tagging 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 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 the Standards New Zealand website.
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 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 on a construction site 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.
It is recommended that you maintain a database of all test records as this is deemed as good practice. It would include:
- asset ID
- test results
- sites and locations of equipment
- re-test dates
- asset description
- make and model
- serial number
- any additional notes.
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