• 7 July 2014

How Portable Appliance Testing saves lives and money

Any business owner or employer has a duty of care to their employees, customers and workplace users, and through their duty are required to have a stringent health and safety policy in place. Many owners / employers look at health and safety as a burden and rather than implement its recommendations, look at ways to save money.

Often falling into the “don’t do it to save money” category is Portable Appliance Testing, yet done properly, this additional form of safety testing can save businesses money, time and potentially lives.

As the Director of a company that has completed over 100,000 tests, and a Director for the national PAT Testing Network, Richard Ayre knows a thing or two about the benefits of “PAT”.

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing for ease) is a process you can put into place either in-house or by using an external contractor, which is cheaper than hiring a full time maintenance team, causes less disruption than regular maintenance and can find faults quicker than a maintenance team.

The process of PAT involves inspecting and testing all the electrical appliances on the site to ensure they function correctly and are safe to use. If not, general repairs are carried out or instructions are provided as the best course of action to take. As a last resort, an item may be failed; but if so, it’s in the best interest of potential users to take this out of service. Remember though, failing an appliance test is actually beneficial because once that appliance is taken away, it is no longer a threat; thus lives are being protected.

If you run a busy factory and year on year everything passes the tests, you should be asking if that's right. It’s rare to do one inspection in this environment without a single failure, never mind many years. But more often than ever, we’re starting to see evidence of this, usually due to PAT testing contractors on low wages cutting corners to increase numbers. The process of choosing the cheapest bidder often leads to lives being put at risk.

When carrying out the PAT, the engineer may come across a faulty appliance that just needs repairing rather than removing from service. In this case, they should repair it. What repairs they end up conducting depends on the appliance and the skills of the engineer. All PAT engineers should be able to replace a faulty or damaged plug for a new one, replace fuses and conduct basic repairs on the flexible cable. That is often enough to ensure an appliance passes. Perhaps the appliance needs opening up in order to repair it; a PAT engineer isn’t necessarily an appliance technician or specialist for that product, so it shouldn’t always be expected that the engineer will conduct the repair. For those that have the skill however, they may offer this service additionally, or do it as part of their role. If they can’t repair, they will then recommend repair. They may label the appliance as a ‘fail’, but can return to test it again once it has been repaired.

By carrying out the repair or recommending repair, the engineer is protecting potential users from harm.

It is for these reasons that you should carefully choose a good PAT testing company (if using a contractor). A good PAT tester will find the faults and remove them, thus “saving lives”. A good PAT tester recommends what appliances need repair, so you’re only repairing what needs repairing, rather than everything, subsequently removing the need for a full-time maintenance team. In addition, a good PAT tester will save you time, because from his skills and experience, they will be able to do their job at a high working standard, without cutting corners, in a shorter time period than it would take the maintenance team to do it, or to maintain every appliance.

The additional benefit is a good PAT company will manage the logistics of the contract with you, so that disruption to your team is kept to a minimum, ensuring production isn’t affected and therefore saving you any potential lost revenue.

Finally, we must look at insurance – PAT has a benefit where your insurance is concerned. There is a chance at some point you will need to make a claim on your insurance, be it for a fire or someone taking legal action against you. If the claim is due to a faulty electrical appliance, your insurer will want to know if you have had it checked recently; was it safe to use? Had it been maintained regularly or PAT tested?

Every year, there are 350,000 serious injuries as a direct result of electrical accidents. The insurance firms know that many of these injuries can be avoided through regular appliance testing, so it is no surprise that it’s one of the first questions they ask.

Approximately, 1,000 accidents at work each year involve electric shocks or burns, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE); which could be avoided through effective practice of portable appliance testing.

The mentality of many is that they assume an appliance is safe, because it’s never hurt anyone before, or because it is new, but as long as they remain untested by a professional engineer, you will never know if there are any hidden dangers lurking within. Failing to find faults, or replace faulty equipment contributes 24% of the thousands of electrical fires in non-residential buildings every year - these are statistics no business owner should ignore.

To conclude, PAT testing can save you time, money, and lives - having regular electrical appliance testing on your site can save you money, save lives and help to protect your business.