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User Checks

What does the law say

Regulation 4(2) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 says ‘As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger’. It is very “practicable” to simply visually inspect appliances before use. Visual Inspections catch the vast majority of faults before they become a problem.

 

What can go wrong

The leads and plugs, or sometimes the equipment itself, can become damaged. This may result in an electric shock. Electric shocks can kill. Damaged equipment can also cause fires. By frequently checking plugs, leads and equipment before use YOU become the best tool in the prevention of accidents and fires. The value of user checks should not be underestimated.

 

What can users do

Portable Appliance users should look critically at the electrical equipment which they use, look for damage to the outside of the equipment, its lead and plug before using the appliance, but they should not take the plug or appliance apart.PAT Inspector holding a plug that was found broken in to two halves during visual inspection

How can users tell if it is damaged

By looking! This is the most important maintenance precaution. Around 95% of faults or damage can be found just by looking (Visual Inspection). The things users are looking for on the equipment, the cable and plug (after disconnecting it) are signs of:

  • Damage, e.g. cuts, abrasion (apart from light scuffing) to the cable covering;
  • Damage to the plug, e.g. the casing is cracked or the pins are bent;
  • Non-standard joints including taped joints in the cable;
  • Equipment that has been used in conditions where it is not suitable, e.g. a wet or dusty workplace;
  • Damage to the outer cover of the equipment or obvious loose parts or screws; and Overheating (burn marks or staining);
  • The cord grip is holding the outer part (sheath) of the cable tightly; If the outer covering (sheath) of the cable not being gripped where it enters the plug or the equipment, e.g. the coloured insulation of the internal wires is showing then the Appliance should be removed from service until it is repaired;

This does not apply to moulded plugs where only the fuse can be checked. But the sheath must be in good condition with no cuts or cracks. Most of these checks also apply to extension leads and their plugs and sockets.

 

What happens if users find something wrong

They should tell somebody (a supervisor or manager) and the equipment should be labelled as faulty and taken out of service to be repaired or discarded. (The plug could be taken (but never cut) off to stop it being used.) A record of the fault and the remedial action taken must be made in your Faulty Equipment Register (usually kept with the PAT Testing Report)