- Why must I test my appliances?
- Who is responsible under the law?
- How do I prove that my appliances and equipment are in good repair?
- What appliances and equipment need to be tested?
- What should the tests include?
- How often should the tests be carried out?
- Who should employers use to conduct the tests?
- How much should I be paying for PAT testing?
- Beware of cheap prices
- Things to think about
Why must I test my appliances?
The simple answer is that the Law requires it. Examples of legislation on the subject are:
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Chapter 37 section 2(2)): Employers must ensure -
“The provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health.”
Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) Regulation 4.1 says:
“All systems (everything that is connected to a common source of energy – even small appliances) shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger.
Regulation 10 Guidance note 164 says:
“Special attention should be given to joints and connections in cables and equipment which will be handled, for example flexible cables for portable equipment.”
The Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) says in Regulation 5(1):
“Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair”.
Who is responsible under the Law?
- Users of the equipment
- Persons responsible for maintaining the equipment
- The competent person carrying out the inspection and test
- Management personnel have overall responsibility for the safety of the equipment and its maintenance programme
How do I prove that my appliances and equipment are ‘in good repair’?
The guidance notes to the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989, Paragraph 69) state that:
“Regular inspection of equipment is an essential part of any preventive maintenance programme. Records of maintenance, including test results, … will enable the condition of the equipment and the effectiveness of maintenance policies to be monitored.”
PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) provides an instant visual confirmation via correct and up to date labeling that, maintenance has been carried out and the equipment in question has been declared safe to use.
Properly constituted and maintained records of inspection, test and repair will show the efforts you have made to maintain your equipment properly as the law demands.
What appliances and equipment needs to be tested?
The IEE have provided a code of practice to guide both clients and test houses and lists the following categories as being in need of inspection and testing:
- Portable or movable equipment
- Stationary equipment
- Hand-held equipment
- Equipment that is either plugged in or connected by a flex to a connection unit (spur unit)
- Built-in appliances
- IT equipment
- Extension leads and adaptors (with or without RCD)
- Equipment with high protective conductor currents
What should the tests include?
- A visual check covering suitability of use, switching, wiring, connections, plug condition etc. (Note: this is a formal inspection not to be confused with standard user checks that are regularly carried out).
- Tests to verify – earth continuity and insulation resistance
- Functional check of the equipment
- Identification of necessary repairs to the equipment
How often should the tests be carried out?
Although annual tests seem to be generally most often applied, employers should carry out a risk assessment to determine the frequency of tests. The risk assessment will take account of the environment in which the equipment is used and how well the equipment is maintained in between tests.
Who should employers use to conduct the tests?
Where electricity is concerned, only competent persons should be used.
What does ‘competent’ mean? A competent person will possess the following:
- Adequate knowledge of electricity
- Adequate practical experience of electrical work, especially the system to which the equipment is connected
- An understanding of the hazards that may arise from work
- An ability to recognize whether it is safe for work to proceed
It is important to recognize that portable appliances are often found in more sensitive areas such as offices that require a level of discretion and decorum on the part of the tester.
How much should I be paying for PAT testing?
In recent times the price per item has been driven down due to the volume of PAT testing organisations that have appeared on the scene. Typical prices range from over £2 per item to less than £1 in some cases. The number of items and the availability of access, and environment will affect the market price.
Beware of cheap prices!
Remember why you are having the tests done in the first place. You are ensuring that the equipment is safe to use. If you employ testers that walk round ‘sticking labels on equipment’ and not carrying out the tests properly you will have defeated the object of spending the money. You can’t know the equipment is safe.
Think about the following:
It is only physically possible to carry out so many PATs in a day if the tester does the job properly.
There is an inevitable basic cost involved in employing a competent tester, being paid an hourly rate in keeping with their skills, complete with transport, PPE and test equipment etc. If testing houses are charging, for example, well below £1 per item, they are either employing cheap (and probably unsuitable) labour, or they aren’t completing tests properly.
A proper test takes time to conduct after giving due allowance for site induction and taking measures to reduce disruption to your work operations etc. A full test will require appliances to be disconnected for the test to be carried out properly. The tester will have to complete an inordinate amount of tests in order to make a profit. Remember why you’re having the testing done and don’t waste money employing companies producing results that don’t accurately reflect the conditions of your appliances.
REMEMBER: It is the duty holder’s responsibility to ensure competent persons are employed. In the event of an incident, it is the duty holder decision making process that will come under scrutiny!
Image courtesy of Aleksander Jonczyk