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Power crackdown at major Melbourne venues

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MELBOURNE 10 MAY 2017: Without warning the Melbourne and Olympic Parks venues have commenced a strict inspection and enforcement regime that will heavily impact concerts and also may exceed AS/NZS 3112, the harmonised Australian and New Zealand Standards for AC Plugs and Socket-Outlets.

A roadshow at Melbourne Park Function Centre yesterday narrowly avoided shutdown after venue staff deemed all new exhibitor equipment without a Test Tag non compliant. The SECTECH road show tours with power distribution equipment and cables supplied by a major lighting company. All touring cables and power distribution used by the promoters to wire each stand were correctly tagged, having been tested prior to tour.

Yet as is often the case with individual exhibitor equipment, much of it was not tagged under Standard AS/NZS 3760. In every case the equipment was new from carton at the previous show.

But venue Senior Operations Coordinator James Ross advised promoters a recent electrical accident at the site, which includes Rod Laver Arena, (15,000 seats), Hisense Arena, (10,000 seats) and Margaret Court Arena, (7,500 seats) has led to stringent inspections.

He went to on advise that the common practice of connecting a second cable onto a piggy back plug socket was also no longer permitted, nor was daisy chaining of power boards – even with circuit breakers on each board. In the case of SECTECH a lot of low current draw equipment was in use, with some exhibitors having as many as 40 connections yet drawing less than 5 amps.

All connections went to touring power distribution (tested and tagged) with RCD breakers.

Touring shows will be impacted at Melbourne and Olympic Parks as many overseas shows import equipment, sometimes entire rigs, that are not typically tested or tagged under Standard AS/NZS 3760. They should be – but they usually are not. Venues typically turn a blind eye to this, as stopping a setup to individually test and tag thousands of devices would take days with very significant costs and probable show cancellations.

Australian production suppliers have long pushed for this, as they chaff against the burden and cost of test and tag, a Standard that doesn’t make anything safer after the devices are tagged. It is a necessary Standard on a building site where weather, wear, and arduous conditions produce proven risks, but less so with entertainment production.

Back to the Roadshow problem yesterday. The standard states that in Australia when the equipment is new, the supplier is deemed responsible for its initial electrical safety. New equipment need not be tested but must be examined for obvious damage. However, to ensure that new items are included in the system, and get tested eventually, there are ‘New To Service’ tag specifically for this purpose. Without one of these tags attached, it is difficult to determine if the appliance is under 12 months old or is an untested appliance. New items should be tagged and dated, in-house, when purchased and recorded as such in audits.

The checking and tagging of equipment as per AS/NZS 3760 must be done by a ‘competent person’ – this means someone who “has the necessary practical and theoretical skills, acquired through training, qualification, experience or a combination of these, to correctly undertake the required tasks”. The person does not need be a qualified electrician. 

A quick call around of electrical wholesalers revealed few had heard of the ‘New to Service’ tag, with most suggesting a regular test tag be applied. But this would be at odds with the Standard, since the regular tag implies that the device was tested on a Portable Appliance Tester. The ‘new to service’ category equipment can be tagged whilst in use, without disconnection.

At Melbourne Parks yesterday the promoter was advised a venue contractor would inspect each exhibitor stand, and apply the necessary test and tag. But when the contractor arrived, the daunting scale of the task became apparent – as did the complete resistance of exhibitors, with booted servers and displays, interrupting their work.

After assurances from the promotor that the touring equipment was all compliant, and that the exhibitor equipment (some of which was correctly tagged) was all new to service, the matter was resolved and the show continued.

• Juliusmedia Group, publishers of this content, are co-promoters of SECTECH Roadshow.

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