Deconstructing the Myths around Testing and Calibration

Jan ,30 2017

As a leading supplier of safety equipment to the electrical industry, we play a big part in keeping the industry safe.

As such, we take it seriously when other parties provide misleading or dangerous advice to the industry. This seems to be happening in Queensland lately by the Electrical Safety Office (a government body).

Due to many queries that we’ve received, we feel it is our responsibility to deconstruct and correct the dangerous advice being provided by the ESO on their website (Volt editor comments in red).

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) paper writer who carries out electrical work must ensure the electrical safety of all persons and property likely to be affected by the electrical work.A PCBU must have procedures in place to ensure that tools, testing equipment and personal protective equipment are regularly inspected and tested.This requirement ensures that workers carrying out the work are electrically safe and that the work, when completed, is electrically safe. (Ed: correct up to this point)
Visual inspection
All tools, testing equipment and PPE should be visually inspected before each use for signs of damage.PCBUs should have ‘pre-start’ visual inspection procedures in place to ensure that equipment such as, tools, PPE, rubber mats and LV rescue kits are in good working order before use.

Testing equipment should be checked for damage to insulated leads and probes and needs to be confirmed as working before use.(Ed: correct, but would add that visual inspection will not find many faults or hazards that may be present)

Testing of equipment
Testing equipment should be tested regularly to ensure it provides the level of protection required. Testing intervals will depend on several factors including:

· the frequency of use

· the environment in which it is being

· manufacturer’s advice.

· (Ed: What about standards? Australian or International standards that cover safety equipment should be absolutely followed. Not doing so exposes you to safety and litigation risks)

For example, a multimeter used in a workshop environment may be subject to less damage that a multimeter carried in the back of a work van.

In absence of manufacturer’s advice PCBUs should refer to a competent person with the knowledge and skills required for testing the particular type of equipment.(Ed: this would be a certified testing or calibration technician)

Items that have been misused or damaged should not be used until they have been re-retested and confirmed as functioning correctly. (Ed: correct)

Test equipment used for measurements such as earth continuity and insulation resistance should be regularly tested to confirm they are working correctly.

Some equipment such as multimeters may be able to be tested in-house, by using a calibrated resistor test block. (Ed: absolutely incorrect, how can using a test block to check your resistance, show you any errors on other critical safety functions, specifically voltage or current?). Other equipment such as fault loop impedance testers or RCD testers may require specialist testing.

Link: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/electricalsafety/electrical-safety-services-and-information/tools-and-equipment

And here are some comments the ESO recently published in an newsletter to the entire industry (Volt editor comments in Bold Italics).

Before you do any electrical work, always check that your tools, test instruments and personal protective equipment (PPE) are safe to use. (Ed: correct up to this point)A simple visual check can identify any damaged insulation on tools such as pliers and screwdrivers, cuts or tears in insulating gloves or mats, or damaged meter leads. In addition, check that your test instruments are functioning properly, including multimeters and insulation resistance testers. (Ed: correct, however visual inspection will not find many faults or hazards that may be present) The Electrical Safety Regulation 2013 (PDF, 846 KB), section 22 requires that tools, testing equipment and PPE used for live work must be:· suitable for the work· properly tested
· maintained in good working order.

· (Ed: What about standards? Australian or International standards that cover safety equipment should absolutely be followed. Not doing so exposes you to safety and litigation risks)

There is no mandatory test interval and no compulsory way to inspect and test low voltage electrical equipment testing instruments. To determine the interval or methodology, take into account the instrument’s function, operating range, usage and accuracy requirements. (Ed: There is most definitely a compulsory way to inspect and test instruments. This is covered in an internationally accepted standard, ISO17025, which covers lab standards, test processes, required accuracies of test standards, record keeping requirements and much more. Spoiler alert, a test block doesn’t cut it)

Before you develop an inspection or test program, read the instrument supplier’s instructions or speak to the instrument’s manufacturer. (Ed: Totally agree. Volt Safety recommends 6 monthly testing and calibration on its products, which is industry best practice. If your instrument supplier or manufacturer doesn’t offer a suggested interval, 6 monthly testing and calibration should ideally be followed as industry best practice).

Link: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news/newsletter/esafe-newsletters/esafe-editions/esafe-electrical/2016-bulletins/testing-and-maintenance-of-tools-and-equipment

Volt safety believes the ESO’s advice ranges from somewhat misleading in parts, to factually incorrect and dangerous.

The bad news for you is that they have cleverly worded it in such a way that they will still be able to fine or prosecute you for not having testing and calibration done frequently enough.

By the ESO not stipulating a mandatory test interval, the legal onus will always fall on you for not having done it often enough, if anything goes wrong. The best way to protect yourself is to stick to industry best practice, 6 monthly testing and calibration at minimum.

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