Inspecting and Testing Electrical Equipment

Inspecting and testing electrical equipment helps determine whether it is electrically safe.

Regular visual inspection can identify obvious damage, wear or other conditions that might make electrical equipment unsafe. Many electrical defects are detectable by visual inspection, but not all.

Regular testing can detect electrical faults and deterioration that cannot be detected by visual inspection.

The nature and frequency of inspection and testing will vary depending on the nature of the workplace, its environment and the risks associated with the electrical equipment.

A key source of information on dealing with the inspection and testing of electrical equipment is the manufacturer’s recommendations

Lower-risk workplaces include those workplaces that are dry, clean, well-organised and free of conditions that are likely to result in damage to electrical equipment, for example, an office, retail shop, telecommunications centre or classroom. Electrical equipment commonly used in these types of workplaces includes computers, printers and stationery or fixed electrical equipment. Electrical equipment used in lower-risk workplaces may still need inspection and testing, on a less frequent basis, to ensure that it is safe for continued use.

Guidance on inspecting and testing electrical equipment in lower-risk operating environments is included in AS/NZS 3760:2010: In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment and may also be included in the manufacturer’s recommendations.

In addition to regular testing, electrical equipment should also be tested:

  • after a repair or servicing that could affect the electrical safety of the equipment (i.e. undertaken by the person carrying out the repair or servicing before return to service)
  • before its first use if bought second-hand.

 New equipment

Brand new electrical equipment that has never been put into use (i.e. other than second-hand equipment) does not have to be tested before first use. It should, however, still be visually inspected to ensure that no damage occurred during transport, delivery, installation or commissioning.

The date the electrical equipment was placed into service should be recorded, for example on the record of installation. The electrical equipment may also be fitted with a tag stating:

  • that the equipment is ‘new to service’
  • the date of entry into service
  • the date when the first electrical safety test is due, and
  • that the equipment has not been tested.

Fitting a ‘new-to-service’ tag is an administrative task that can be carried out by an appropriately trained in-house person.[1]


Electrical powered machines and portable tools require the following:

  • Carry a current test tag
  • Be maintained in good electrical condition
  • Regular inspection is required as handheld electric power tools, such as electric drills, circular saws, angle grinders, and portable pumps commonly used in maintenance work may suffer from general wear and tear and rough handling.
  • Such use may result in damaged cords and cords pulled out of plugs
  • Portable power tools and pumps must be maintained and in good electrical condition.
  • When cords, plugs or sockets become damaged they must be replaced
  • Only a qualified electrician can repair or alter any electrical item.

Tag and Testing

This requires a competent person to conduct a physical inspection of the item and test for any leakage by testing the item and placing a tag on it. The TAG will include the date of the test, the due date for the next test and the name of the competent person. A competent person is someone who has acquired through training, qualification or experiences the knowledge and skills to carry out inspections and testing of electrical equipment. Testing can be conducted by a qualified electrician or appropriately trained competent person. For further information please review WorkSafe Website.

The following table for inspection and testing interval recommendations according to AS/NZS 3760:2010 In-Service Safety Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment[2]

Type of environment and/or equipment The interval between inspection and tests
Equipment including Class 1 Equipment, Class II Equipment, cord sets, cord extension sets and EPODS Residual Current Devices (RCDs)
Push-button test – by user Operating time and push-button test
(a) (b) Portable(c) Fixed(d) Portable(e) Fixed(f)
1. Factories, workshops, places of manufacture, assembly, maintenance or fabrication. 6 months Daily, or before use, whichever is longer 6 months 12 months 12 months
2.Environment, where the equipment or supply flexible cord is subject to flexing in normal use OR is open to abuse OR, is in a hostile environment 12 months 3 months 6 months 12 months 12 months
3.Environment where the equipment or supply cord is NOT subject to flexing in normal use and is NOT open to abuse and is NOT in a hostile environment. 5 years 3 months 6 months 2 years 2 years
4.Residential type areas of: hotels, residential institutions, motels, boarding houses, halls, hostels accommodation houses, and the like 2 years 6 months 6 months 2 years 2 years
5.Equipment used for commercial cleaning 6 months Daily, or before use, whichever is longer N/A 6 months N/A
6.Hire equipment: Inspection Prior to hire Including push-button test by hirer prior to hire N/A N/A
Test and Tag 3 months N/A 3 months 12 months
7.Repaired, serviced and second-hand equipment After repair or service that could affect electrical safety, or on reintroduction to service, refer to AS/NZS 5762.

Case Law

Northern Territory fishing company Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd was charged with breaching its duty under WHS legislation after failing to mitigate the risk of death from electrocution for its workers. An employer of the company was operating an angle grinder on the Gulf of Carpentaria when a wave washed over him and the grinder. Without the correct safety measures in place, the worker suffered a fatal electric shock.

The Coroner’s report confirmed there was no mandatory RCD installed on the angle grinder’s electric socket. Making things worse, the CEO did not know to install an RCD was a mandatory requirement under WHS law. So far, the offending company has only been charged. If found guilty, it will face a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.[3]

If you not sure what a standard or case law means please click here to review our article on Acts, Regs, COP and Standards. I’m confused.

[1] Managing electrical risk in the workplace Code of Practice October 2018

[2] AS/NZS 3760:2010: In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment


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