Portable appliance testing
Portable appliance testing is a process for checking electrical appliances that are fitted with a plug, are safe to be used.
Through a series of visual and electrical tests a seasoned engineer will be able to confirm whether or not the appliance is safe to be used or for continued use.
The plug makes the appliance portable – portable from the main electricity supply by unplugging from the socket.
Portable appliances are also appliances under 18kg in weight
The plug is inspected visually inside and out, as is the flexible cable and the appliance itself. When the engineer is satisfied that the appliance has passed the visual inspection appropriate electrical tests will be carried out. Dependent on the appliance make up this can include an insulation resistance test, an earth continuity test, a polarity test and sometimes but more and more rare these days, a substitute leakage test. An appliance may also be tested for correct functionality.
What happens after the tests
Whilst carrying out the inspections and testing the engineer will be recording the results achieved and making any notes necessary for assessing the risks and for recommending ways to improve your safety.
How the engineer records the results is up to him or his company, and there are various methods, all with their own pros and cons but ultimately as long as you get notified of any dangerous appliances and get a record of all the appliances that pass, you’re compliant.
Some engineers record everything in a report book, some will use paper files, or excel on a tablet, others use a iPhone/android app like the ones developed by KewTech or Seaward, whilst others use machines that can record the information too. Whichever they use usually comes down to personal preference; as long as the inspections and tests are being done correct the recording method doesn’t really matter.
At the end you should get a report; this may be immediately or later, if reports are to be compiled at the office – the latter is usually the preferred choice for professional companies.
The report should include reference to any failed appliances, and what to do with them, a list of all appliances that have passed, with identification numbers that match the numbers on the labels, the description of the appliance and the overall result. Some companies provide a breakdown of results for each test conducted but the clients who study these are few and far between.
Others say that there is a need to show the history of an appliance, and for that they use barcode labels that record appliance histories, maintaining the same number for the appliance for each test conducted.
As long as the appliance is tested, and passes, or is found to fail, that is the most important part of the PAT test.
A PAT testing label should be applied to the appliance being tested, this should be put on neatly and firmly attached; it should ideally be professionally printed so it maintains its information until it is replaced. There are many printers who supply these labels and many PAT companies who use pre-printed labels. Its rare these days to find hand-written labels, and sometimes this may reflect the professionalism of the engineer.
The label should have an identification number on it that relates directly to the report, the date of the test, and information of the engineer/company who conducted the tests.
It has become standard practice also for a PAT Testing Certificate to be issued; this is actually not important at all, as the true certificate is the list of appliances that passes, rather than a “well done you have passed” sheet.
If an appliance is found to be dangerous
The idea behind PAT testing is to make sure appliances are safe to be used, and to find those that are not. If the engineer finds a defective appliance he will assess the best course of action. That may be to repair it, or fail it. If an appliance can be repaired it will be; usually the scope for repairs includes:
- Repairing the existing plug
- Replacing the existing plug
- Replacing the existing fuse
- Repairing the existing flexible cable
- Repairing the appliance – few PAT engineers are trained appliance repairers so this rarely happens
If the fault is internal to the appliance, the engineer is likely going to recommend repair by a specialist. These days appliances can be bought relatively cheaply, so unless the equipment is expensive, it may be cheaper to dispose of the failed appliance, and replace it with a new like for like item.
The engineer should report the failed appliance to you whilst on site; you may even be notified by the engineers company by email real time. Some companies don’t tell you until you get the report – you should be wary about using these in future as they are risking your safety; in the mean time that appliance could have been used, putting the user at risk. Sensible engineers may remove the fuse, or cut off the plug. Whilst cutting off the plug is frowned upon it’s actually a really good option as it means the appliance can’t be used accidentally.