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The basics of Portable Appliance Testing

Portable appliance testing, often abbreviated to the snappier PAT testing, is a pretty vital part of owning or operating any electrical equipment – which includes our distribution boxes here at Rubber Box! According to the British Health and Safety Executive, portable appliances account for about 25% of all reportable electrical accidents, which is one of the reasons it’s so vital. Here, we explain the basics, and the various reasons why it’s so important.

What is PAT testing?

Essentially, it’s an annual test procedure that needs to be performed on all equipment that uses or distributes electricity. This test has to be performed regularly, according to rules set out in the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. The rule doesn’t specify that it has to take place on an annual basis – in fact, it doesn’t set out any explicit timescale – but that’s when most businesses find it sensible to do it. PAT testing applies for events-based equipment and devices, as well as appliances and power cords in more everyday environments like offices and warehouses.

The test needs to be carried out by a competent person. In some cases, this may be a qualified electrician, whereas for more basic equipment, a simple visual check by a staff member will suffice. Most electrical safety defects can be identified through a visual examination, but some will require more detailed testing. All appliances require a visual check at the very least, as this is the most surefire way to detect a fault.

When the test is completed, the appliance will receive a sticker stating the date of the most recent test, who performed it, and when the next one is due. It then needs to be recorded so that the owner or business has a detailed record and overview of exactly what sort of state their equipment is in.

What happens when an item fails a PAT test?

Nothing particularly dramatic! In most cases, the item is simply repaired by a qualified professional and then immediately tested again, which often results in a pass. However, sometimes certain items fail to pass these tests, and they’re then disposed of. This might be because they’re incapable of being repaired, or their age makes it difficult to do so to an acceptable standard. Occasionally, they may be simply uneconomical to repair.

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Why is PAT testing so important?

For starters, it’s legally binding, and mandated. (As we touched on above, it’s not the testing which is optional – it’s only the timescale which is open to interpretation.) One reason why PAT testing is so important is that it can help staff to identify faults which might not be evident in normal use – for example, faulty earth bonds.

It’s also especially important for any imported electronics or similar products, as their manufacturing and operational standards might vary from the UK’s. In other words, certain devices which are regarded as safe to use in other countries might be regarded as dangerous according to the UK’s official standards. (We solve that problem here at Rubber Box with our Certificate of Conformity.)

PAT testing also ensures that your equipment doesn’t fail at crucial times, helping you to preserve productivity and the smooth running of your business. And of course – most importantly – it safeguards both you and your staff from actual physical danger. For these reasons alone, it’s worth taking extra care to ensure your staff are trained to spot any faults in your products. (Remember, the PAT test only guarantees that the equipment was compliant on the test date itself – much like a car MOT.)

We take your safety seriously here at Rubber Box, so we manufacture our power distribution equipment to very high standards. You can read more about our systems that keep you safe, or familiarise yourself with the essentials of electrical safety at public events. If you require a bespoke product, that’s a service we provide too, and if you need any help or advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01282 677 910.

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