What is PAT Testing all about? Is it important and do you have to do it? Let’s discuss some tips.
What do you need to know?
Portable appliance testing (PAT) is an examination of electrical appliances and equipment to make sure they’re safe for use. A lot of defects in these types of equipment can be discovered through visual inspection but some defects only by testing.
Early recognition of defects such as poor earthing, damaged cables and cracked plugs mean action can be taken before a potential incident is caused.
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. This means that it is the employers responsibility to ensure that the equipment is safe buy the Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently (ie they don’t make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement, nor do they make it a legal requirement to undertake this annually).
However, the safest and most reliable way of ensuring that your equipment is safe is to conduct regular PAT testing. How regular will depend on the equipment and the environment it’s used, a tool in a high risk environment such as a manufacturing workshop should be tested more frequently than a telephone in an office. You aren’t obligated to make any record of the testing but it is highly recommended in order to effectively manage the testing program.
Where can you find further PAT testing guidance?
HSE Guidance document HSG107 provides some fantastic tips for how to safely maintain electrical equipment.
Table 1 (page 17) shows a suggested inspection frequency. The document can be found here.
You can complete PAT testing yourself by purchasing as testing machine, and attending the relevant training course. Most companies prefer to bring in an independent PAT testing company however in order to preserve integrity of the testing and avoid errors due to complacency.
Some additional tips for safely using plugs.
Always remove the cardboard template on a plug around the pins. This is an extremely hazardous object. The pins and surrounding plastic can often become hot through plug use and fires have been caused through the cardboard catching light. As soon as you’ve read this, take 10 minutes to check all of the plugs in your home or office, it is worth it!
Always fix a broken plug or socket. This ones seems obvious but in a busy environment it’s very common to continue using a broken plug or socket either through laziness or complacency. Make the time to fix it, broken plugs and sockets have caused fires and unfortunately no doubt will again.
Don’t overload extension cables and multi adaptors! four spaces doesn’t always mean four plugs!
A 4-way extension cable takes a max of 13 amps so if you are plugging in several electrical items always check you are not exceeding 13 amps in total.
eg Microwave oven 7 amps
Electric heater 8 amps
Iron 13 amps
However laptop, <0.5 mobile phone <0.5, 42″ TV 0.5 all minimal
Check your amps and watts here.