In: Portable Appliance Testing

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is an important sector in health and safety regulations which contain legal and technical requirements. It has been recorded by the Health & Safety Executive that 25% of all reported electrical accidents are a result of a faulty portable appliance. The Electricity at Work Regulations applies legal responsibility on employers and employees in order to act accordingly with the provisions of regulations and take reasonable steps to ensure that accidents do not result from the use of a portable appliance, which is why it is important to complete portable appliance testing (PAT). It is imperative that portable appliance testing (PAT) is completed in order to maintain the health and safety at work. Portable appliance testing depends on the risk of the appliance becoming faulty.

The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) defines a portable appliance as “any electrical item which is intended to be moved whilst connected to an electrical supply”. The IEE Code of Practice highlights regulations on what type of testing a portable appliance requires because the type of testing carried out varies depending on the size and usage of a portable appliance. A portable appliance which weighs less than 18kg requires testing to ensure that a portable appliance is able to move from one place to another whilst in use, this includes:

Hand – Held appliance testing – these are appointed to be held during normal use, e.g. a hair dryer.

I.T appliance testing – e.g. computers and mains powered photocopiers.

How is portable appliance testing completed? Portable appliance testing is completed by a “competent” portable appliance tester and there are several procedures involved when testing portable appliances.

One method of portable appliance testing is through visual inspections where the PAT tester visually scrutinizes a portable appliance, in particular the plug and cables require testing for any clear signs of hazard. This is an affective method on how to test a portable appliance because according to the HSE this approach to portable appliance testing can find more than 90% of faults, thus, it is a vital mechanism for the maintenance of a portable appliance.

An additional approach of how to complete testing of a portable appliance is through user checks. This procedure is where users are advised on how to avoid any potential danger, for example, a frayed cable or cracked plug. If this is the case then PAT testers advise that the plug is not to be tampered with.

An added procedure on how to complete testing of a portable appliance is through combined inspections and PAT testing which is done at periodical intervals where it is vital that testing of a portable appliance is measured at the degree of protection to maintain adequacy. During these intervals a formal visual inspection is completed followed by testing of a portable appliance. When testing a portable appliance it is essential that the interior of the plug is checked (unless it is molded or sealed), in this case of PAT testing procedure bad internal wiring or an unsuitable fuse would classify the item as hazardous.

In the formal inspection of the testing of a portable appliance there are certain signs to be aware of:

• Disturbance to the power cable sheath
• Wreckage of the mains plug
• Overheating
• Damage to external casing of the equipment, or loose parts and/or screws

The formal PAT testing procedure should also contain removal of the plug cover and an analysis of:
• The sufficient value fuse being used
• The cord grip has a tight hold of the outer part of the cable
• The Live, Neutral and Earth wires are attached to the correct terminals
• No visible bare wires
• Tight and secure screwing of the terminal screws
• Signs of internal drainage