Electrical safety

For the service that we offer see our electrical safety testing page.
This page focusses on plug in appliances rather than electrical installations.

Photo of a non-compliant extension cable made with no earth and no outer sheath

This home made non-compliant extension cable is incorrectly using twin core trurip cable. It has no earth and no outer sheath.
Image: Alan Liefting.

Electrical safety testing is carried out to detect any possible fire and electrical shock hazards. Current legislation places a requirement, primarily on organisations, to make sure that electrical products are safe to use.

For both organisations and consumers, the Electrical (Safety) Regulations 2010 is the main  legislation to consider.  The regulations cover activities of technicians, electricians, recyclers, and second hand dealers.

Electrical safety testing is only a test in a snapshot of time as to whether an appliance is safe.  Also, not all unsafe conditions will be detected if automated test equipment is used. A thorough inspection is also needed to detect some other types of potential electrical hazards.

Test and tagging is a way of ensuring appliances are electrically safe.  It is not required by law but does give a degree of certainty about the safety of the appliance.  Test and tagging can be done by any “competent” person.   The testing will give false positives in some cases and if the person doing the testing lacks sufficient knowledge it leads to the needless disposal of the items.

Plug in appliances (called portable appliances in the legislation) that are used in a workplace must by law be tested to ensure that they are electrically safe.  A physical inspection detects most of the electrical hazards.

The Electrical (Safety) Regulations 2010 deem appliances in service to be electrically safe if tested to the AS/NZS 3760 standard.

Sometimes  poor quality manufacturing or poor design leads to issues with electrical safety in a batch of appliances.  A voluntary or mandatory recall is actioned if necessary.  Recent recalls in New Zealand can be viewed in this list.

Importing electrical devices

Importers who on sell electrical devices must ensure that they are electrically safe.  Individuals that import items that are for their own use appear to be able to do so even tough they may not be electrically compliant in New Zealand.

In order to ensure the electrical appliances are safe it is recommended that they are purchase locally or from reputable overseas companies.

An over-zealous electrical safety testing programme or cursory testing without knowledge of appliance design can lead to higher levels of e-waste.  Automated appliance testing equipment can sometimes give a false positive and further work would be needed to be done to see if there is actually a fault.  Discarding the item in this case is sometimes seen as an easier (but wasteful) option.

Further information

There have been 24 heater recalls since 2010, and there’s a decent chance yours is on the list | The Spinoff

There have been 24 heater recalls since 2010, and there’s a decent chance yours is on the list | The Spinoff20 June 2018
With up to 80% of faulty indoor electric heaters potentially still in use, is the recall system in need of a major shake-up?
The unofficial guide to electrocution (and how to avoid it) | YouTube

The unofficial guide to electrocution (and how to avoid it) | YouTube24 November 2021
Super fast summary: Wet areas or ones with a lot of exposed metal pose the highest shock risk. Confined areas or reaching into equipment pose a higher risk of fatality by trapping you during an electrical contact. Treat everything as live even when seemingly isolated/disconnected due to the risk of backfeeds from other circuits. Ordinary work gloves can reduce the risk of a serious shock greatly.

Last updated: November 28, 2021 at 8:09 am