PAT testing process and procedures tend to vary based on the electric hazards workers are likely to face at the work environment. Our customers at Powerpoint Engineering regularly pose questions regarding what happens if an item fails a PAT Test and if a failed item can be repaired? I have put together the following information that I hope will give you a better understanding of how to handle failed items.
It is common practice to de-energise faulty equipment, remove them from service and quarantine them until they are repaired and certified safe for use or disposal. Businesses are free to adopt suitable, safe alternatives should the appliance or equipment be needed to complete tasks already underway, provided PAT testing is not a legal requirement in the region of business operations.
The catch, however, is that not all appliances failing PAT tests are faulty. There are several other reasons why appliances may fail PAT testing, such as:
- use of aged PAT testing equipment
- equipment not regularly calibrated
- use of wrong equipment for the appliance type
- the choice of tests for a particular type/class of appliance
- or simply incompetent, amateur PAT testers
It is, therefore, important to first rule out these possibilities before arriving at a standard procedure to handle appliances that have failed PAT testing. Partnering with a competent, reliable PAT testing professional or service provider will help address all the above concerns quite easily.
Dealing with Known Problems and Solutions
Service providers with the right knowledge and experience have the necessary competence to test portable electronic appliances – putting them through relevant tests, using the right PAT testers, interpreting results and certifying them for safe use.
Established PAT testers are aware that select class or type of equipment are bound to fail certain PAT tests, and need to be tested using suitable alternative tests to certify them.
For instance, appliances with built-in devices that limit voltage such as EMI suppressors or surge protectors most likely will fail the Insulation Resistance Test (IRT). While a nominal voltage 500V/250V DC may still be considered for IRT, internal relay systems and electromagnetic switches may not respond to the test – especially those in personal computers, contemporary power tools and even television sets. These appliances must instead be put through a Leakage Current Test to clear them for safe use.
Another typical problem is that of portable appliances with long extension cords failing the Earth Continuity Pass test. Using the right PAT tester for the appliance can remedy this issue; however, the discretion and competence of the person carrying out the test do make a significant difference in such cases.
It is also worth noting that the sequence in which tests are carried out also determine the effectiveness of the testing process.
What If An Appliance Fails A PAT Test?
Items that actually fail tests are usually removed from service with immediate effect, and supervisors, contractors and users suitably notified.
PAT testing service providers, however, must make sure they use the right testing equipment; tests and test conditions most suited to the type of appliance being tested. It is also their responsibility to get testing equipment calibrated and cleared for the job at hand.
As we are aware, PAT testing can be carried out in-house via:
- User Checks
- Formal Visual Inspections
Any visible signs of damage or potential danger such as smoked-out plug points, frayed wires are normally rectified then and there with the help of competent staff or a qualified electrician – if the appliance is a low-voltage item set in a low-risk environment.
While labelling tested equipment with red or green labels indicating “pass” or “fail” status is a prevalent practice, it is not a legal requirement in the UK.
In countries such as Ireland where PAT testing is a legal requirement, it is mandatory to ensure appliances are suitably labelled using quality labels and ink that can withstand working conditions until the next round of testing.
Identifying each appliance using a unique id will help maintain traceability. Labels ideally should carry three basic pieces of information – appliance ID, status and test date. Additional information relevant to the specific work environment may also be included.
Appliances that have failed testing should be easily identifiable. Prominently placed red labels explicitly stating that the equipment is not safe for use are ideal. On the other hand, green labels may be positioned in a discreet manner to ensure they stay in place.
Irrespective of whether employers opt for in-house PAT testing or hire a competent PAT testing service provider to certify portable appliances, identifying each piece of equipment and labelling them will go a long way in preventing any serious mishaps when handling portable appliances at the workplace.
PAT testing service providers who carry out Combined Inspections and PAT testing usually list failed items in a separate failure sheet as a part of the reporting process.
There are no hard and fast rules for PAT testing. Formulating a company-wide process and adhering to it will not only make the exercise more effective, but also make it possible to maintain and furnish records if and when required.