PAT testing could be another string to your bow

If portable appliance testing (PAT) is not part of your repertoire, you may be missing a trick. Steve Dunning from Martindale Electric explains how taking on this skill could lead to new business opportunities for plumbing and heating engineers.

If you are a plumbing and heating engineer who works or carries out maintenance checks in offices, schools, hospitals and other places of work, then Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) may provide you with a new business opportunity. That is because Portable Appliance Testing is not just the domain of electricians, and today specialist companies and even trained in-house personnel carry it out.
User friendly test equipment, software and training is available to anybody who wants to add it to their services. If you are already providing services into a workplace, then asking them who carries out their testing will be straightforward and could potentially lead to more work for you.

Who’s responsible?

In accordance with the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989), any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury must be maintained in a safe condition. Designed to help raise the standards of electrical safety in the workplace, PAT ensures that electrical appliances and equipment that have been classified as ‘portable’ are safe to use.
Although the requirements around PAT are clear in their intent, they do not specify what needs to be done, by whom, or how frequently. Organisations that neglect the inspection and testing of appliances or fail to nominate a competent or appropriately trained individual risk invalidating their insurance policies and endangering lives. Should a fault arise in an appliance that is left unchecked or undetected by an under-qualified individual, the consequences could prove fatal.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, 25% of all reportable electrical accidents involve portable appliances. From these figures, it is clear that a large number of incidents and injuries could be prevented with proper electrical checks, inspections and safety tests.

Choice of tester

Often overlooked, but vitally important, do make sure that you cover all bases with the capability to test not only appliances, but mains extension leads too. It is also important to consider accessories early in the selection process. Ideally, a unit will have a good range of readily available accessories for use across a wide range of applications.
A small, lightweight design is ideal for maximum portability and a backlit display is particularly handy for use in a wide range of locations. If you can, opt for equipment with easy-to-read help guides on the tester itself or on-screen.
One button operation makes testing incredibly easy, and a unit with a clear pass / fail indication with test results on-screen makes light work of record keeping.
A soft carry case allows the unit to be used without having to unpack and repack, which speeds up the process for maximum efficiency. Furthermore, by selecting a rechargeable unit you can optimise efficiency and reduce running costs.
For the purposes of PAT regulations, portable appliances are defined as those that use a flexible cable or plug and socket. This means that if there is an appliance that has a plug that is connected to a wall socket or generator, it should be PAT tested. This definition includes equipment that is either hand-held or hand-operated, intended or likely to be moved.

Fixed vs portable

Portable equipment also includes appliances which may have been fixed for security purposes, such as those in hotels or changing rooms including kettles, hairdryers and hand dryers, for instance.
There is now an extensive range of portable appliance testers available to suit a wide range of applications – including some which just offer a simple pass / fail result.
As truly fixed appliances, such as wall mounted hand dryers, appeared to fall between the code of practice for PAT testing in its older editions and the wiring regulations, the latest code of practice makes it clear there is a responsibility to test these appliances, but the person involved must be properly trained in safe isolation.

Equipment options

When it comes to testing portable appliances, the HPAT Series of portable appliance testers enables competent people to quickly and safely verify the electrical safety of all types of appliances. Designed to perform safety checks in accordance with the IET Code of Practice, these lightweight rechargeable handheld testers are designed for ease of use, with one button automatic testing and clear connection details shown on the tester. The small, lightweight design and one-button operation make the HPATs ideal for testing in all locations, be it under a desk or behind a monitor. The bright backlit display provides a clear pass / fail indication.
For more demanding PAT applications, other more sophisticated testers are available which incorporate a greater range of tests and have the ability to store the test results for later recall on-screen, such as the HPAT600. For downloading results to a PC in order to manage assets and re-test requirements, Martindale offer the MPAT Plus with MPATSUITE software.

Care and convenience

To keep running costs down and to ensure that no time is lost due to flat batteries, a good solution is to choose a battery powered rechargeable PAT tester which can also operate from a mains power supply, such as the HPAT500 and 600. The capability to easily test mains leads and extension leads is essential and it’s useful to have connection instructions either on-screen or on the tester as a reminder of what to do when used infrequently.

Simple solutions

We know how important it is to carry out effective PAT testing and we also understand that those responsible for safety and compliance need to carry out that testing as productively and efficiently as possible. That is why we have developed simple solutions to electrical safety compliance that enable users to safeguard their electrical infrastructure, quickly and easily, ultimately keeping people safe.

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