We use electrical equipment without thinking about it. Wherever you are right now – at work or at home – have a quick look around you, and you will undoubtedly see a number of items that use an electrical power source.
Let’s say you’re in an office: your computer, desk lamp, calculator, printer and other peripherals, heaters and perhaps a photocopier, all use electricity to do their job. So, you’re in the lounge at home: you have a TV, perhaps a hard drive, you may have your phone plugged in to charge, and various lights.
Then there’s the kitchen, perhaps the most obvious example. Your kitchen at home and at work will have a kettle, probably a microwave, maybe a toaster and other cooking implements. It’s the same everywhere you go – in shops, factories and wherever – that you will be surrounded by electrical equipment.
The thing is, we take it for granted that it is safe to use. At home, it is our responsibility to make sure visitors are safe; in the workplace, it is the duty of the employer. This is why there is something called Portable Appliance Testing – or PAT – in place to check that all electrical appliances in the workplace are safe.
In the UK and Ireland – and in some other countries – this is a legal requirement, so let’s have a look at what it is all about.
What is PAT?
Portable Appliance Testing is a method of ensuring that all electrical appliances in the workplace are tested on a regular basis to determine if they are safe to use. This applies to everything from desk lamps to intricate machinery, and it is a legal requirement.
However, it should not raise a concern as the system for PAT is actually quite simple. In fact, there is no requirement for a qualification in PAT testing, only that a ‘competent person’ carries out the procedure.
The test will begin with a simple visual check: making sure that power cables are in good condition, are not frayed and there are no exposed wires. Also, checking the body of the equipment for damage and wear and tear that may expose electrical parts, and ensuring the device is correctly wired and fused.
The tester may also check that the appliance is earthed if this is necessity, and will then use a multimeter – or another type of meter if this is determined to be the right method – to check various other aspects of the electrical operation of the system.
The multimeter is easy to use and training can be given in how to read the output, as well as in the other areas of PAT testing.
Although we have already said there is no legal requirement for a qualification, it remains the case that it is recommended your PAT testers undergo at least basic training. There are many training courses available that take up little time – indeed, you may find that the training can take place on-site – and will give your chosen team the relevant understanding of how to carry out the test.
Training will tell them what to look for in the visual tests, for various different types of equipment, plus how to use the meter and understand the readings it provides. If you use a system that uploads information to a computer they will be trained in this area, too.
Your team will be taught how to fill out the relevant paperwork – all PAT test details must be kept for five years – and any other aspects of the job, so you can ensure your PAT testing is always up to date and complies with the regulations.