Every workplace, including yours, will have electrical appliances, and is governed by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Health and Safety includes prevention of accidents from electrical equipment, which is referenced in the electrical regulations including the Electricity at Work Regs.
In order to prevent electrical accidents such as fire or (electric) shock, appliances must maintain safety standards – those same standards that the manufacturer was led by when they made the appliance. When made the appliance met these standards, and its expected that the appliance will continue to meet these standards throughout its life.
You can check the appliance continues to meet safety standards by getting it safety checked, through the process that we do, called Portable Appliance Testing.
Portable appliance testing is a part of the umbrella term of electrical inspection and testing which covers all electrical using installations including the mains wiring, as well as portable and fixed equipment. Fixed equipment and wiring needs inspecting by a qualified, registered electrician and portable appliances get done by competent PAT testers.
Every electrical appliance fitted with a plug, and appliances that had a plug but now are hard wired need inspecting and testing on a regular basis to make sure they are still safe to use. This may need doing as often as every 3 months for power tools on a building site to every 5 years for fixed equipment like computer server systems, but in most cases businesses tend to get their appliances tested every year to make sure no new defects are missed.
Computers sat on desks in an office for example should only need a test every 3-4 years but should be inspected every 1-2 years to be sure they’re ok. But to cover all possible issues we carry out a test anyway, to be sure. The HSE and IET recommend a complicated system of visual inspection and combined inspection and test at different intervals but years of experience have taught us that swapping between inspections and tests at intervals only leads to confusion over what has been done so it’s easier to follow the path of the full combined inspection and testing phase every time. If you want to learn more about PAT Testing frequency see that page, or just talk to our operatives when they’re on site testing your electrical equipment.
All this means to you is you get a more thorough inspection every time.
Most electrical appliances have 3-pin plugs that we’re all used to, and use every day at home and work. Usually powering our kettles, microwave ovens, hair driers, computers and mobile phones, but some appliances have been made for or adjusted for use in industrial settings, commercial kitchens and so on, and have non-standard adaptors operating off (e.g.) 16 and 32amp 110v, 230v and 400v adaptors. All these have to be checked by a PAT tester or other suitably competent person.
Portable appliances have safety systems in place including the protective sheath around the cables, fuses to protect the cable, insulation on plug pins, and internal systems such as earth connections and double insulation. All these need checking by the PAT tester. Every appliance has a plug, cable, and so on, but depending on the make up of the appliance it may rely on earth as well as insulation protection.
So, as a PAT tester we do a visual inspection on every appliance, then if needed we also test for:
- Earth continuity (when earth protection is needed)
- Insulation Resistance
- Polarity (of leads)
Be careful if you choose these super cheap national companies who send a badly paid engineer to do the job; in order to make a basic wage he has to record around 500 items a day; its just not possible to test 500 items every day so he’ll cut corners or make up the results in order to make his money. Whilst this may seem bad it happens a lot in the industry, and our national standards body, the Portable Appliance Testing Trade Association is working hard to eradicate this. The 65p per item they charge you may seem a bargain, but if they don’t do what they say, and an accident happens, you are still responsible for the repercussions so be sure they did a thorough job.
Some appliances don’t need any tests, the visual inspection being enough, and these are appliances without exposed conductive metal parts. You don’t need to worry which appliance requires what test because your PAT tester knows, and will do what needs doing, in order to make sure your equipment is safe to help you comply with the legal requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act.