Does your business need RCD testing?

Posted in:

When it comes to electrical safety, RCDs and RCD testing are important concepts to understand. The use, testing, and maintenance of RCDs is set out in your state/territory WHS laws, relevant Australian Standards, and other relevant regulations. As the controller of a workplace, you could have duties and obligations covering RCD issues. So, what exactly is an RCD and how do you get it tested? Here’s everything you need to know about RCD testing and your key obligations relating to these devices.

What is RCD testing?

A residual current device (RCD) is a safety device designed to trip or immediately turn off all power to the circuit the RCD is attached to. These devices work by monitoring the flow of electricity through the circuit it’s attached to and automatically switching off power if it detects electricity is leaking to earth at harmful levels. RCDs are also known as safety switches or earth leakage circuit breakers, and they can be portable (at switchboards or fixed socket outlets) or attached to your distribution board (at main switchboards).

RDC testing involves deliberately tripping your RCD to check it will work effectively in the event of an electrical incident. The faster your RCDs trip, the less likely someone will sustain an electrical shock – or, the smaller the electric shock is likely to be. RCDs have to be regularly tested to confirm they’re working to the specified safety standards.

Why businesses need RCDs

RCDs can protect your employees, contractors, and others on your site from the risk of electrical shock, injury, and even death. Other potential hazards include the following.

  • Falls – RCDs could minimise the risk of injury or death due to falling from ladders, scaffolding, and other raised platforms when incapacitated due to electrical shock.
  • Burns and tissue damage – RCDs could prevent electrocution leading to serious, permanent burns to the skin, internal tissues, and even the heart.
  • Fires and explosions – RCDs could also minimise the risk of electrical fires and explosions, especially if you have flammable or combustible substances on site. Take into account that dusty working environments are potentially flammable. RCDs could also improve safety outcomes in the case of undiagnosed electrical faults causing fires and explosions.
  • Wet conditions – A wet operating environment or a natural disaster like flooding can raise the risk of electrical shock. An RCD could prevent these types of incidents from occurring.
  • Appliances, equipment, and exposed parts and wires – Exposed live parts and wires, along with faulty appliances and equipment can endanger your employees and others on site.
  • Powerpoints and extension cords – Damaged or overloaded power points, as well as worn or overloaded extension cords, can be potential hazards for electrical shock in your workplace.

Meeting RCD-related requirements as a business

Additionally, businesses may need to have RCDs by law. In New South Wales, this applies if your business has a high-risk environment as defined in the Work Health and Safety Regulation (WHS Regulation). In turn, these regulations require regular RCD testing carried out according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 3000:2018. As a person conducting a business or undertaking PCBU (such as the manager or controller of a work site), you have a specific duty under the WHS Regulation to use an appropriate RCD where required. The duty also includes an obligation to have it tested and ensure it’s operating.

Hostile operating environments

So, when do you need to have RCDs installed? As the NSW WHS Regulation clarifies, hostile operating environments can include sites with exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, dust, or corrosive chemicals. They can include any operating conditions likely to result in damage to the electrical equipment used or a reduction in its lifespan. These conditions can also cover situations where the electrical equipment is moved between different locations and where damage to the equipment or to a flexible electricity supply cord is reasonably likely, among a variety of other situations. For example, equipment like drills, saws, electric knives, jackhammers, floor polishers, electric welders, cement mixers, and portable bench saws might require RCDs.

The WHS Regulation also outlines exceptions to the rules – specific situations where you might not need to have an RCD installed, even if it’s a hostile operating environment. Finally, managers or controllers of workplaces need to have their RCDs tested regularly and keep a record of the testing. You could be fined if you don’t meet these obligations.

Experts who can help

As a PCBU of an office or other work site, you’re responsible for making sure any electrical work is performed by a competent person. As such, you should always work with a licensed, qualified electrician. An electrician can not only assist with maintaining and checking your RCDs in line with the requirements of AS/NZS 3000:2018 and other applicable rules, but they can also help with choosing the right RCDs for your work sites.

  • Appropriate RCD – As the NSW Managing Electrical Shocks in the Workplace Code of Practice suggests, your electrician can assist you with choosing an appropriate RCD for the application.
  • All circuits – Although RCDs are mandatory only in hostile operating environments, having them installed on all your circuits could minimise the risk of electrical shock and related injuries or even deaths.
  • Other laws – Your electrician can also give you advice on complying with other regulations and rules, including local building and electrical safety laws in your state/territory.

More generally, a licensed electrician with experience working on commercial or industrial sites could also support you with preventative measures for electrical safety and making your worksite a safer place to work.

Understand your RCD-related obligations

If you manage or control a work site, you have specific obligations relating to the use of RCDs. These could vary depending on your state/territory, but it’s critical to be aware of them so you can fulfil your compliance requirements. In addition, understanding how RCDs work and how they need to be maintained could turn your workplace into a safer, more pleasant place for employees, clients, and others. WHS rules, building and electrical safety laws, and Australian Standards regulate how RCDs should be used, tested, and maintained. These rules and standards can be complicated. As such, you’ll want to work with an experienced electrician so you can be confident you’re fulfilling your legal obligations and doing your best to create a safe working environment.

Need expert advice and testing for your RCDs? Platinum Electricians have extensive expertise and experience in commercial and industrial sites. We can help you with RCD compliance, as well as other electrical safety needs. Contact us now for more information about how we can assist.