Electrical equipment testing in schools
Most electrical equipment at your school must be tested. This reduces the risk to people using the equipment. It must be tested by someone trained to do it, and it must be done using proper testing equipment. As a board of trustees, testing electrical equipment is part of your legal obligations.
- Your health and safety responsibilities
- Testing standards
- Which equipment must be tested
- Testing the equipment
- Tagging tested equipment
Making sure your electrical equipment is operating safely is part of your overall health and safety responsibilities
This will help you meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 3760:2010 sets out all the requirements for:
- testing equipment
- tagging appliances once they’ve been tested
- recording test results over the life of the appliance.
You can buy a copy of the standard from the Standards New Zealand website.
If you comply with this Standard, WorkSafe New Zealand is likely to be satisfied that you've done everything you can to provide electrical equipment for a safe work place. If you don’t comply, and someone is harmed, you could be prosecuted.
You also need to make sure electrical equipment is safe under the the following pieces of legislation, which are all available on the NZ Legislation website.
You must test:
- all equipment that’s designed to be plugged into the low voltage power supply
- portable outlet devices or power boards
- flexible cords that are connected to equipment in high-risk environments, like laboratories
- portable transformers
- battery chargers
- portable heavy-duty tools
- residual current devices.
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, for example, light fittings suspended from the ceiling
- the equipment would need to be dismantled to be tested
- the equipment is fixed and is wired directly into the wall
- they are LAN cabling or mains outlets.
You don’t have to test the cables that go through your school buildings. 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.
You can use an electrician to test electrical equipment but you don’t have to. A staff member, caretaker or parent can do it if properly trained. You’re responsible for making sure the person is properly trained.
Visit the Electrical Workers Registration Board website for more information and to arrange training.
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?
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.
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.
How to test electrical equipment
You need equipment to do a thorough test. Portable appliance testers are ideal for this and they can be purchased or hired. The simpler versions work by plugging the appliance into the tester, and a green or red light shows if it passes or fails.
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.
You must also keep a database of all test records, including the:
- asset ID
- test results
- sites and locations of equipment
- re-test dates
- asset description
- serial number
- any additional notes.
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