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The PAT Process

Inspector holding a PAT test instrument performing a test on a lead

Whether work starts with a safety induction, signing the fire register or just a simple introduction, our inspector will ask if there are any areas that would benefit from being completed ASAP, left till last or done at a certain time. He will also ask about any computer networks and servers; protocols here vary wildly and can result in ‘after hours’ work or simple ‘visual’ only inspections.

It is the customer (or the duty holder) who is ultimately responsible for ensuring they have performed an adequate risk assessment. Our inspector can only advise on how best to comply with legislation and the Code of Practice. It is the duty holder’s ultimate decision and they should be able to inform our inspector what protocols to observe during testing.

Leaving aside details like access to equipment and crawling under desks to retrieve plugs and cables we will move on to formal visual inspection and testing, formal inspection always precedes testing.

When instigating a portable appliance test the most important thing is to start with a formal visual assessment. This will ascertain the suitability of the equipment for the area in which it being used. It is perfectly reasonable to fail an appliance based purely on the lack of suitability that an appliance has for use in a specific environment. (Under these circumstances we would immediately notify the duty holder and effect a resolution)

Visual test; the methodology here is for an appliance with a non-removable cable (any removable leads will require individual testing as per the Code of Practice); firstly the entire appliance will be given a swift once over to establish there are no glaring faults that would instantly cause the inspector to issue a ‘failed test’. Next comes a detailed inspection, starting by checking for damage to the plug and/or casing. The inspector will look for bent pins, cracks, missing sections of casing and anywhere a user could touch live parts, the inspector will also look for damage from overheating like burn marks, discolouration and signs of melting.

Any cardboard wiring help cards fitted around the pins must not be left fitted, it is a safety hazard, and would constitute a fail under Appendices VIII of the IET code of practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment,

Taking the top off the plug (Fully moulded types excluded) the inspector will check for loose wires and screws, also that it is correctly wired. All plugs are checked to ensure that the outer of the flex is firmly held by the clamping system and a fuse of the correct rating is fitted, (If the inspector is unhappy with any aspect of the plug he will rectify any faults after completing the visual inspection to avoid unnecessary work should something else result in the appliance failing testing) the opened plug is reassembled upon passing inspection

Bespoke PAT Test report showing full test data and PAT certificate produced after testing

Once the plug has been assessed the inspector will continue by checking the entire cable for cuts and other damage, also that the cable is adequately protected where it enters the appliance and that the cable is correctly restrained by some form of clamp.

Next the appliance itself undergoes a detailed visual inspection making sure there is nowhere that a user could touch live parts. Once the inspector is happy that the appliance is visually safe and any damage would not cause any danger in its safe operation the inspector will, if necessary address any problems with the plug before moving to the electrical tests.

The inspector will now select what type of test/s the appliance will undergo; at this point the inspector will enter a “pass” or “fail” status for the visual element of the tests. Providing the appliance has passed the Visual Test he will now connect the appliance to the Test instrument via its plug or an adaptor. A preselected sequence of events (depending on the class and type of equipment) will establish a “pass” or “fail” status for the appliance. Details of the appliance and any notes are entered into the Test Instrument then saved. A bespoke label, that can only be produced after testing is completed, is then printed giving further assurance that the appliance has been properly tested. This label is then attached to the appliance to uniquely identify it.

Providing the appliance has passed its testing the inspector will now be put back to the position in which it was found, disconnected cables are reconnected and everything left ready for use. (unless told otherwise)

The inspector will not reinstate any appliance that has failed testing, a DANGER – DO NOT USE label will be attached to the Faulty appliance and the duty holder informed that repair/disposal is required. A note will also be made in the “Faulty Equipment Register” and the equipment quarantined.

Our system involves the recording of full test data, this data is an essential part of any PAT regime. The tick box method employed by many testers is just not good enough and worryingly, will leave the quality of any testing open to question.