What Is PAT Testing Mainly Used For?

Typical portable electrical appliances found in a workplace include drills, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, buffing machines, power saws, photocopiers and laptops, to name but a few! Electrical items that are not considered to be portable appliances include such things as ceiling lamps and cookers that are hard-wired into the mains supply.

There’s no legal requirement as such in UK law to PAT test electrical equipment, but it does come under health and safety law, in the form of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. These regulations require all electrical systems, including items of portable electrical equipment, to be maintained so they don’t become dangerous. PAT testing is a way to meet this requirement. There’s no legal timeframe as to when appliances should be tested and at what intervals, but many employers test appliances on an annual basis, or more frequently if they’re exposed to harsh conditions (e.g. used outdoors or in wet, hot or cold environments).

Ultimately, the frequency of testing should be determined by a risk assessment for each item of equipment. Risk assessments are a legal requirement, according to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. A good risk assessment for a piece of portable equipment must identify the main risks from using the equipment, to spot items at a greater risk of losing their integral safety through damage, misuse or degradation. The risk assessment must also put in place control measures to minimise risk. PAT testing is one example of a control measure to decrease risk. The higher the risks identified in the risk assessment, the more frequently PAT tests should be carried out, along with other control measures to decrease risk.

The actual testing procedure for portable appliances includes a visual inspection, as well as a test using a special PAT testing instrument. The visual test should check the condition of cables and wires, integrity of the casing and the plug. PAT test instruments carry out more detailed checks on equipment. Mains powered PAT testers are used, as well as battery operated testing devices. These are self-contained and easy to use. They perform an earth continuity test, insulation resistance test and a check on the wiring of the mains cord. They can also include tests that power up the appliance so it can be tested when connected to the mains supply. Most testing machines use a straightforward pass or fail result. As well as their pass and fail message, they have different settings for metal and plastic appliances, analysing earth continuity, polarity and insulation resistance.

More advanced PAT testing machines are available and are able to provide more detailed information about the appliance, with more sophisticated testing features. These are mainly aimed at more complex portable appliances with a higher element of risk when used at work. Advanced PAT testing devices display more information than a simple pass or fail message. Their earth continuity resistance test gives a more sophisticated measurement range and can cope with lower test currents, which enables a wider range of appliances to be tested (e.g. computers, which are sensitive to normal PAT testing). They can also carry out insulation resistance tests at voltages of 500 V DC and 250 V DC, earth leakage tests, fuse tests and lead polarity tests.

Of course, all results from a PAT test need to be interpreted by someone who’s competent to do so. Competency is defined in health and safety law as having sufficient knowledge, training, skills and experience to carry out a certain task correctly and safely. Visual inspections can be carried out by the equipment users themselves. Electricians have to pass stringent examinations to qualify for their trade and the readings from an official PAT test need to be interpreted and logged, which is usually best carried out by an electrician or someone who as enough skill and time to get around even the largest of workplaces. PAT testing makes up an important part of facilities management because it can record the location and safety status of portable electrical equipment. Most large employers contract out their PAT testing to an electrical contractor on an annual basis, to a company like Fluke Ireland.

Keep-Fit Qigong Self-Massage for Health Improvement

Patting is a straightforward form of Chinese Massage Therapy for keep-fit enthusiasts falling into the category of External (Wei Dan) Qigong. Its effects can be somewhat more profound than simple skin rubbing approaches in the treatment of underlying conditions. Patting helps to strengthen the bones and tendons, encourages the development of muscle-tissue, lubricates joints, enhances the circulation of the blood and improves the metabolic functions. Patting, when applied to the torso, can improve the functions of the internal organs.

The exercises involve oneself only and the participatory activity thus generated leads to patting being considered superior to and more effective than ‘passive massage’ (i.e. massage which is performed upon you by third parties). After such exercises the body feels ‘lighter’ and more comfortable and the consciousness feels clearer. For more advanced or ‘serious’ patting enthusiasts a number of simple technical aids exist including sand and rice-bags.

Sample Patting Exercises

These can be performed with the palm, bottom of the fist or the simple equipment mentioned above. The exercises can be performed both walking and standing by assuming the following body positions.

1. Patting the Head

Drop your shoulders and elbows and smile. With your left palm pat the left-top of your head from front to rear 50 times then repeat the exercise 50 times with your right palm on the right-top similarly. Next do the same to the right and left sides of your head, keeping your mind calm and your breathing natural throughout.

Regular practice prevents and treats dizziness, headaches and deficiencies in blood supply to this area.

2. Patting the Arms

Using the same starting instructions pat each of the four sides of the left arm with the right palm from top-to-bottom 25 times in sequences of 5×5 to make 100 ‘pats’ in all before repeating the same sequence with the left palm on the right arm.

Regular practice prevents and treats poor muscle-growth of the upper arm, cyanosis of the lower arm and partial paralysis of the arm.

3. Patting the Legs

Standing erect, raise the left leg until it is at right angles to the right leg, using a chair, rail, fence, table or other convenient object for this purpose. Pat the leg on all four sides from thigh to foot in similar 5×5 sequences as outlined in 2 (above) then repeat the exercise with the other leg. When patting in sequences go from light to heavy within each round.

Regular practice prevents and treats numbness and lack of feeling in the lower limbs, maldevelopment of the leg muscles (and their paralysis and partial paralysis) and can help remedy certain walking difficulties (1).

Notes

(1) See ‘Keep Fit the Chinese Way’ by Hu Bin, Foreign Languages Press Beijing, for more detailed instructions.

Peter Allsop M.Ed., Shaolin Kung Fu and Qigong Teacher in Sheffield U.K. is a Senior Student of Grandmaster Yap Leong and Area Coach for his HYL (Health, Youth and Longevity) Energiser Qigong Programme. Iron Shirt and Longevity Training, 5 Elements Qigong are amongst the many Chinese Health and Fitness strategies that really work.

PAT Testing in Offices

Electrical appliances start off perfectly safe, but with use can deteriorate to an extent where there is a risk of an electric shock or a fire. Just as regular MOT checks ensure the safety of cars on the road, Portable Appliance Testing (or PAT to use the popular acronym) ensures that electrical appliances continue to be safe to use.

At first sight, PAT Testing looks quite technical and expensive, and as a result many companies either contract out this aspect of Health & Safety or ignore it altogether. However, a proper understanding of the requirements can lead to a safer workplace.

If testing is carried out “in-house”, a substantial saving in cost can be realised. This article aims to provide the reader with an understanding of PAT Testing and the background to it.

Introduction

Portable appliance testing, or PAT Testing seems to have an aura of the “black arts” about it. As a result a lot of companies either ignore it altogether or sub-contract this aspect of Health & Safety implementation. However, a proper understanding of the requirements can lead to a safer workplace, and if in-house testing is carried out a substantial saving in cost. This article aims to provide the reader with a full understanding of PAT Testing and the background to it.

Design of electrical appliances

If appliances that use mains electricity should develop a fault the consequences to the user can be lethal. In the design of electrical appliances steps are taken to prevent this. It is always possible for appliances to become faulty. However, the design precautions taken are such that a single fault will not result in any danger to the user.

On appliances that have large areas of exposed metal, say a PC or an electric fire, this metal is connected to the Earth pin of the mains plug. The idea is that if high voltages should develop within the PC due to a single fault, this cannot reach the user, as the whole unit is enclosed in a “safe” earthed case. This type of protections is known as Class I.

The other way of providing protection is by the use of two separate layers of insulation. If a single fault resulted in the first layer of insulation being breached, then the second layer of protection is still available. This method is used in handheld appliances such as drills and hair dryers and is generally know as Class II.

Class II appliances are inherently safe and require less frequent testing. They are always indicated by the “double box” symbol.

PAT Testing Regulations

The European Low Voltage Directive governs the manufacture or importation of electrical appliances. Compliance to this has to be declared and indicated by the display of the CE mark on the product. The responsibility for this lies with the manufacturer or the importer and is policed by the Trading Standards.

However, like cars, it is important to have a maintenance regime for electrical appliances. The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) requires that electrical appliances be maintained so that they remain safe during use. The implementation of this is up to employers. The HSE or the local authority is responsible for the policing of this.

Planning your PAT Testing

The first step is to make an inventory of all the electrical appliances. For every item, one needs to work out the frequency of the maintenance checks, based on the method of protection (i.e. Class I or II), the degree of portability and the environment it is used in.

For example appliances that are handheld whilst in use, such as hair-dryers need to be inspected more frequently than a PC monitor that is moved rarely. An electric fire in a factory needs to be inspected more frequently than one used in an office.

It is essential to prepare a Test Record for each appliance. As the maintenance program is carried out, results and comments can be recorded here. This can be invaluable evidence if there is an incident concerning an appliance and a compensation claim is made.

On completing the maintenance, the appliance has to be labelled. This has to indicate the date that testing has taken place and the date after which the appliance should not be used. Equipment that fails should be removed from use and marked appropriately.

Implementation

Having looked at the regulations and spent some time planning, we need to develop a method of maintaining the appliances. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recommends three levels of maintenance actions.

User checks

Users need to be encouraged to look critically for signs of possible hazard every time they use electrical equipment. This can be done easily by making everyone aware of what is considered to be bad practice. A poster is one way of doing this. It is also good practice to introduce this as part of the induction process for new staff or at regular staff meetings.

Formal Visual Inspections

This is carried out at pre-determined intervals. It is quite straightforward and consists of visually inspecting the power cable, appliance and plug for any obvious problems and the results recorded. At this stage, it is important to open the plug and check that the wiring is sound. According to the HSE, this stage can result in more than 90% of potential problems being spotted. Some examples of faults that may be observed are shown below.

Combined Inspection and PAT Testing

This again is carried out at pre-determined intervals. For the checking of electrical safety, one will require a PAT Tester. There are many PAT Testers available but the ones with pass/fail indications are quite easy to use. All one has to do is plug the appliance into the tester, connect a test lead and press a button. The tester will carry out the required tests and indicate whether the appliance is safe or not.

In addition to the scheduled periods, testing needs to be carried out if there is reason to suspect that equipment may be faulty, and after repairs or any modification has been carried out.

PAT Testing in-house: Cost savings

If an establishment had 400 electrical items, this would result in an annual cost of about £1000 if this were to be contracted out. However, purchasing a PAT Tester for about £200 and having a firm understanding of the requirements, a comprehensive in-house safety strategy can be put in place. This will result in immediate savings. The option of renting a suitable PAT Tester costing about £75 a month, allows further cost savings.

PAT Testing – Keeping it Safe, By Keeping it Simple

As any UK business owner knows, Health & Safety inspectors can visit at any time to ensure safety measures are put in place in the workplace to reduce health and safety risks. The simple fact is if you don’t comply with the regulations set down by the Health & Safety Executive, you may face prosecution.

One area that requires attention is the safety of portable electrical items. The term ‘portable’ basically covers anything with a plug on it that can be moved around. Even in a small company, that can be a lot of equipment. Faulty electrical appliances, as we all know, can seriously damage your health or even be fatal!

One frequently asked question is how often you need to inspect each appliance. This varies, depending on usage and type of business. There are free guidelines available on frequency of inspection from the Health & Safety Executive or you can purchase a comprehensive book by the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) called ‘Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment’. This book is a recommended read for anyone carrying out PAT testing.

One way to ensure these tests are being carried out satisfactorily is to carry out your own PAT testing with a ‘competent’ person/s assigned to do this. Apart from saving you costs for an electrician, you can carry out the testing at a time to suit your business – it’s not a once a year job either. There will be times throughout the year when you have equipment brought into the business that hasn’t had a PAT test. Take a residential care home for example. An elderly lady moves into the home and her well meaning daughter brings a portable TV in for her to use in her room, that TV needs to be inspected before use. Rather than call out an electrician to test these individual items, it makes sense to have your own competent person to carry out the test, label it and fill out the appropriate record sheet.

It’s not only good practice to PAT test, it is also something that more and more insurance companies will want to see evidence of having been carried out. If you were to claim for fire damage, they would want to know that you did all you could to protect yourselves from fire risk and this would include portable appliance testing. Good record keeping is essential to demonstrate you have been carrying out regular PAT Testing.

There is a fair bit of confusion about PAT testing and what defines a ‘competent’ person. To gain confidence in PAT testing, it is recommended that the person undergoes some training. Most suppliers of PAT testers offer training to help users become familiar with the process, ask questions and gain confidence in the machine they are using.