Anyone who works with electrical equipment needs to be aware of the importance of PAT Testing. The HSE sets standards and may fine businesses that fail to meet these regulations.
Any electrical item that uses a plug, socket, or cable to get power qualifies for PAT Testing. Before the test begins, a formal visual inspection should be carried out.
The basic PASS/FAIL kits are ideal for many workplaces as they offer simple operation, clearly showing whether an appliance has passed or failed the tests. These testers can be mains-powered or self-contained battery-powered and have basic light systems to indicate the results of the tests.
Alternatively, more advanced and various type of PAT Testing equipment can be used to carry out a full range of electrical tests, such as an insulation test and a differential leakage current (LDC) test. The LDC test measures the difference between the live and neutral conductors, indicating whether there is currently flow to the earth. Class 1 appliances are at the highest risk of electrical damage and should be tested more frequently than class 2 equipment.
In low-risk environments, staff should be trained to visually inspect equipment and identify danger signs, such as loose wiring or cracks. They should also be encouraged to report damage as it occurs so that repairs can be made quickly. A professional should be hired in high-risk environments or when equipment requires inspection and manual PAT testing.
Dedicated PAT Tester
A dedicated PAT tester is an electronic device that will test electrical appliances for safety. It usually checks for ground continuity, lead polarity, and insulation resistance. It will also display if the appliance has passed or failed the test. It can be either mains powered or battery operated, with some advanced models providing facilities management functionality such as a database of locations and test results.
The legislation around PAT testing states that any equipment that uses a plug should be tested regularly to ensure safety. This is to prevent injuries or fires caused by malfunctioning equipment. It is up to the ‘duty holder’ of the equipment to decide how frequently it needs to be tested, and this depends on factors such as its type and the environment in which it is used. Some equipment, such as hand-held appliances, are more likely to be damaged and, therefore, should be tested more often than other types.
A dedicated PAT tester measures the insulation resistance of Class 1 and 2 electrical equipment by connecting its live and neutral conductors to a test voltage of 500V DC. This measure checks for leakage current to earth caused by mountings or operator contact and is a critical component of safety testing.
A PAT test also includes an earth continuity and lead polarity check. A visual inspection is done on each appliance, and results are recorded on a combined inspection and test report. This report should be kept at work and made available to all employees.
A trained electrician would be the ideal person to carry out a PAT inspection. However, this isn’t always practical or affordable for many businesses. Non-electricians who have been deemed competent by their employer can use PAT testing equipment and should be provided with relevant training to ensure they are safe. This includes explaining the danger signs to look out for on electrical equipment and the test results required to ensure they can interpret the information correctly.