Everywhere that testing and tagging has become an industry it has become a source of income. Unfortunately it seems to have attracted a higher proportion of disreputable people than most other occupations. It is not uncommon for us to receive an enquiry from a person wanting to set up a test and tag operation with the following statement, 'I think I could make a lot of money'. People entering this industry with the main desire of making a lot of money quickly, soon discover ways they can increase their income by taking shortcuts. Before we look at the shortcuts taken let's examine why this industry may sometimes attract people of a less desirable nature.
Generally to become qualified in an industry you have to have training, experience and industry approved qualifications. It takes time and effort before you are considered professionally qualified (for example it takes several years to become a registered and qualified plumber or electrician).
Now let's look at what's required to become a 'qualified' test and tag technician:
1. You need to be a competent person
2. No electrical registration is required
3. No electrical qualifications are required
If you want to start a test and tag business anywhere in New Zealand and in most States in Australia you don't need any electrical qualifications or any other qualifications. As a result, people with no or limited skills can easily be drawn into this industry and perform the work involved.
So what's the main fraud?
Most testing and tagging charges are on a per test basis. If you can increase the number of tests done per day income goes up. So the 'secret' to making more money is as simple as increasing the number of tests done per day.
Most faults are found visually on appliances so the fraudulent solution is to visually inspect appliances only, without testing, and then tag as safe those appliances without visual faults. Aside from being unethical this is also potentially hazardous as the most dangerous faults, such as earthing failure, cannot be found by visual inspection only. An average day's testing may result in 120-150 tests per day if inspection, testing and tagging is done properly. However, if you remove the testing part of the process, then you could easily double the volume of testing done daily to 300+ tests per day. Considering that most Test & Tag operations charge at lest $3.50 per test, if you can charge out an extra 150 tests per day that's an extra $525 per day per person!
Surely such fraudsters would soon get caught?
Well, one would hope so, but unfortunately it is very easy for a fraudulent operator not to get caught as they often test when no one else is on the premises with them or when no one is watching. Also, no records are required to be kept if you are complying only with the requirements of AS/NZS3760. Many of these fraudulent operators will give customers testing records, however these can be easily produced without any testing being done by manually putting data into an Excel Spreadsheet - this looks convincing as visual failures will be documented. These records could look like this:
From the above test results no one can actually tell what tests have been done.
Now look at the results below, they look the same except they also have the actual values of the testing done.
|ID||Description||Site||Location||Test Date||Result||Polarity||Earth Cont Ohms||Insulation MOhms||Load (kVA)||leakage mA|
So what's the significant difference?
Simply put, the second set of results can be easily audited so if someone is cheating they can be caught - and will be caught it they are cheating and making results up with numerical values. On the other hand if only 'Pass' and 'Fail' results are recorded it is virtually impossible to audit the results.
A second common shortcut which is also extremely dangerous, but speeds up testing, is to test all items as Safety Class II (double insulated). This effectively means that all earthed appliances will not have any test performed on the protective earth conductor to verify the condition. Please remember the protective earth conductor on Class I earthed appliances is paramount for its safety.
So how do you prevent becoming a victim to this fraud and also prevent having an unsafe workplace?
Simply require that all testing and tagging is done by reputable contractors who provide records that include numerical values. You will not normally need to pay more for these - a specialist company with suitable test equipment will be able to provide records as above, with little if any extra work - therefore the cost should not really increase.
A representative of our company has been on the Committee responsible for writing AS/NZS3760 for more than since 1998 and during this time has sought to have the Standard amended to suggest 'where records are kept they should include numerical values'.
Unfortunately it is not the Standards' job to ensure cheating (fraud) does not happen and as such no change has happened - at least not so far!
Remember that just because a company may be part of, let's say 'The Master Testers Association', this does not guarantee creditability - past experience has shown that some of the biggest offenders can be hiding within these types of organisations and associations.
For more information see our booklet Appliance Checking versus Appliance Cheating