In: Portable Appliance Testing

Portable equipment testing 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 faulty portable equipment. The Electricity at Work Regulations apply legal responsibility on employers and employees in order to act accordingly with the provisions of regulations and take reasonable steps to ensure that no accidents result from the use of portable equipment, which is why the process of portable equipment testing is important. It is imperative that portable equipment testing is completed to maintain health and safety at work. Portable equipment testing depends on the risk of the appliance becoming faulty.

The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) define portable equipment 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 certain equipment requires because the type of testing carried out varies depending on the size and usage of portable equipment. Portable equipment which weighs less than 18kg requires testing to ensure that all portable equipment is able to move from one place to another whilst in use, this includes:

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

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

How is portable equipment testing completed? Portable equipment testing is completed by a qualified portable appliance tester or a trained portable appliance tester and there are several procedures involved when testing portable equipment.

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

An additional approach of how to complete portable equipment testing 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. When portable equipment testing 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 portable equipment testing 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