Earth continuity testing of power points is a critical component of the mandatory electrical safety checks in Victoria that helps prevent accidents, fire and death, but some service providers are skipping this step. Do you know what to ask?
Why is earth continuity important?
In Australia, switchboards are fitted with safety measures like fuses and safety switches designed to protect occupants. If a fault occurs while an occupant is using an appliance such as a heater, toaster, lamp or laptop charger, these safety measures are designed to kick in to prevent dangerous current from causing electrical accidents such as electrocution or fire.
An earth continuity test ensures that in the case of a fault, those safety measures will work as intended. The test checks the resistance between the earth point on an appliance or power point and the switchboard. Low resistance means that in the event of a fault, the current will flow to the earth point (safe) and not escape externally (safety hazard). Where a current escapes externally, risks include fire, electric shock or even death.
Earth connections need regular testing as they can easily be damaged by a range of factors such as corrosion, loose connections, insulation being crimped under screw terminals or too small a wire being used.
If the earth connection is missing or damaged then an important protection for occupants is diminished or potentially non-existent, creating a significant safety hazard.
How does an earth continuity test work?
Earth continuity tests check that the earth connection at each power point and appliance is undamaged and working to protect occupants from electrical accidents and death.
A common way to complete the test is by using a trailing lead from the main switchboard earth bar to each of the power points and appliances individually throughout the property, measuring the resistance of the earth connection on each one.
An alternate way is complete a loop impedance test of each power point. The loop impedance test measures the resistance as an earth continuity test would. Additionally, the loop impedance test simulates the use of a faulty appliance and validates that all safety devices at the property would work in the case of a short circuit.
At Detector Inspector, we’ve invested in state-of-the-art Fluke testers that allow us to complete the loop impedance test quickly and effectively. We provide photographs of each test at each power point and other appliances (along with evidence of the many other tests we complete as part of the electrical safety check). This provides our clients and their owners with proof of proper testing and an enduring audit trail to refer to should there ever be an incident at the property.
We have also worked closely and collaboratively with Energy Safe Victoria and Victorian Building Authority to ensure that our electrical safety service meets all the requirements outlined in the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 ("Regulations").
What happens if an earth continuity test is skipped?
It’s come to our attention that some providers skip this step in an electrical safety check.
The legislation governing Electrical Safety Checks is crystal clear. As set out in AS3019:2017, section 4.7.1, earth continuity tests are mandatory as part of a regular electrical safety check. Failure to complete the test would mean that the electrical safety check is not compliant, leaving the agency and owner at risk.
More importantly, if an earth connection is compromised, occupants are exposed to the risk of electrical accidents with the potential to cause electric shock, fire and death.
What to ask your service provider
Some compliance services are failing to complete earth continuity tests, and clients are none the wiser. Without having the legislative and electrical expertise themselves, clients are obliged to trust their service provider to carry out the right tests.
Victorian agents and landlords can protect themselves by asking:
- Does the provider conduct earth continuity tests on all accessible power points as required by the regulations?
- Does the provider supply photographic evidence of every test at every power point and appliance?
- Is this evidence automatically stored to prove your track record of compliance, in case there’s an incident at the property?
Tailored solutions for safer homes
Detector Inspector’s trustworthy electrical safety service is expertly designed to meet all legislative requirements. Once a property is enrolled in our service, we automatically conduct ongoing regular electrical safety checks at a low flat fee. Our service is updated as legislation changes, so that clients will never be left non-compliant.
To keep up with complex and changing legislation in Victoria, our Safer Home plans offer a simple subscription service that maintains ongoing smoke alarm, gas and electrical safety and compliance in one cost-effective package.
Download our comprehensive checklist
We have picked out the essential elements of the electrical safety check from the respective standards and created the below checklist that set out the main checks and testing required in the plainest English we could.
If you are not currently enrolled in our electrical safety service, please ensure you ask your provider to validate that all of these checks, including the earth continuity testing of every power point, is included in the service provided.