Test and Tag Requirements for Australian Construction Sites
When it comes to construction sites, safety is paramount. In Australia portable appliances at construction sites are required to be tested and tagged by a qualified technician.
Testing and tagging of portable appliances is mandatory for Australian construction sites and specific requirements need to be followed. Here’s a rundown of the key things you need to know about testing and tagging for construction sites:
What is testing and tagging?
Testing and tagging is the process of testing portable electrical appliances to ensure that they’re safe to use. It’s governed by the joint Australian and New Zealand safety standard AS NZS 3760.2010 which outlines how testing and tagging needs to be conducted, what portable appliances need to be tested, who can test and tag and how often appliances need to be tested and tagged. It contains specific requirements for the testing and tagging of appliances used in ‘hostile environments.’ Construction sites are identified as hostile operating environments as are demolition and mining sites and they have additional requirements which are governed by AS/NZS 3012:2010 Electrical Installations – Construction and Demolition Sites.
Why is a building site regarded as a hostile environment?
The safety standard AS/NZS 3760:2010 defines a hostile environment as ‘one in which the equipment or appliance is normally subject to events or operating conditions likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected life span.’
A building or construction site is clearly classified as a hostile environment because the very nature of the work done on site means that it would be easy for portable appliances used on site to be damaged.
Which appliances used on a construction site need to be tested and tagged?
Testing and tagging ensures that all portable appliances that meet the criteria set out in AS NZS 3760.2010 are safe to operate and do not pose an electrical safety risk.
The appliances covered by the standard are portable appliances that have a flexible cord, a removable plug and a voltage in excess of 50V. Importantly, the standard also covers extension cords and power boards so if either of these are used on site, they also need to be tested.
All portable appliances used on site that meet the safety standard’s criteria must be tested regardless of whether they are used for construction or for other purposes. The standard doesn’t just cover the appliances on the job such as drills. It also includes appliances such as kettles and microwaves used in the tearoom.
That also means that a contractor or sub-contractor working on site must be able to show that all his appliances have been tested and are carrying a current tag. A contractor who can’t demonstrate that their appliances have current tags can’t work on a construction site.
How often do appliances on a construction site need to be tested?
Appliances used on a construction site need to be tested every three months. Sometimes, it will be recommended after a site risk assessment that particular appliances need to be tested more regularly. We also need PAT testing
Seasonal Coloured tags on construction sites
A key requirement for testing and tagging on a construction site is that seasonal coloured tags are used. This is so that a quick visual scan of the site can quickly identify any appliance that isn’t up to date in its testing, and it can be removed from the site.
The colours are mandated according to the seasons and align with the timeframe for testing and tagging on site which stipulates that appliances must be tested every three months.
The colours that must be used by the person who tests and tags the equipment are:
- Blue – Winter
- Yellow – Spring
- Red – Summer
- Green – Autumn
Using mandated coloured tags is helpful on a construction site because there are so many contractors and sub-contractors who work across different sites. The mandate means that no matter what site you go to, you can tell immediately if there is an issue with an appliance’s safety compliance.
Who can test and tag appliances?
AS/NZS 3760:2010 requires that a competent person who has ‘the necessary skills, acquired through training, qualification, experience or a combination of these, to correctly undertake the required tasks’ conduct testing and tagging of equipment.
Testing and tagging must be conducted by a ‘competent’ person but in most jurisdictions, they don’t need to be a licenced electrician. Check for your local rulings.
Importantly, just because someone is a licenced electrician, that doesn’t mean they can conduct testing and tagging on your site. If they haven’t had specific training or experience in testing and tagging, then they don’t meet the criteria of a competent person.
The person responsible for the site is the one the safety standard charges with the responsibility of ensuring that electrical safety testing is carried out by a competent person.
Source: Fact Sheet – Electrical Risks at the Workplace (Safe Work Australia) which carried the below disclaimer.
Note: this fact sheet provides general information only and should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional legal advice for your specific circumstances. The contents of this fact sheet are correct and based on available information at the time of writing. However, there may be subsequent decisions of courts or tribunals on the matter covered by this fact sheet which mean that the contents are no longer accurate.