PAT Testing News Round-Up - June 2011

This issue covers:

BAPAT Taking Shape

Moves to establish a formal portable appliance testing trade association gather pace.

A group of independent PAT testing companies and individuals have for some weeks been debating the setting up of a formal group with the aim of encouraging greater professional standards in the industry.

The British Association of Portable Appliance Testers is now taking shape and will include education and lobbying among its target activities.

Further details are available at Facebook and via the PAT Testing Group on LinkedIn.

Next meeting to be held at Seaward Headquarters on 5th July 2011.

Jobs For Girls' Call Wins Support

An electrical industry campaign to encourage more opportunities for women has won Government backing.

Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, has added her support to NICEIC’s Jobs for the Girls Campaign. the Liberal Democrat MP is a former director of an electrical business and praised NICEIC’s efforts to improve prospects for women in the industry.

“The Government is committed to extending opportunity and that’s why I am really pleased to be able to support NICEIC in its efforts to attract more women into the electrical industry,” explained Ms Featherstone.

Emma McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer for NICEIC, said: “Our Jobs for the Girls initiative has really struck a chord with people both inside and outside of the industry. “The support just seems to keep on growing and it has become a real talking point with everyone I meet.

For more information and case studies of women currently working within the electrical industry please visit NICEIC.

HSE News – Electric Shock Risk Costs Oldham Manufacturer £13,000

An Oldham company has been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £3,979 towards prosecution after it ignored two formal warnings about the danger of poorly maintained and dangerous electrics.

Townfield Manufacturing Co Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after inspectors uncovered a series of cracked socket casings, exposed conductors and live wires on a visit to its premises.

Townfield, which manufactures kitchen equipment for takeaway restaurants, was served with two improvement notices, requiring it to make the electrics safe and also to provide a reasonable working temperature for staff.

A subsequent visit by HSE inspectors found that the wall sockets were still unsafe and the company had only provided workers with one stand alone heater, which had barely lifted the temperature.

Speaking after the hearing, the investigating inspector at HSE, Sarah Taylor, said:

"This is one of the worst cases of dangerous electrics I have ever seen. The employees at this firm were at serious risk of injury or even death.

"The temperature of the factory was also a serious issue. It is simply not acceptable to expect staff to work in conditions so cold that you can see your breath in the air.

"Improvement notices are not intended to serve as a suggestion. They need to be taken seriously and, if companies fail to comply with them, HSE will look to prosecute."

Townfield Manufacturing Ltd was found guilty of two breaches of Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, by failing to comply with the improvement notices which had been issued.

Effective Electrical Testing At Airbus Site

Versatile electrical safety testing technology is helping a specialist facilities management and building services company, Inviron, to maintain safe working conditions at one of the UK’s largest manufacturing sites.

As part of its responsibility for providing planned preventative and reactive maintenance for the mechanical and electrical systems at the Airbus Broughton site in North Wales‚ technical facilities management specialist Inviron undertakes all of the plant’s portable appliance testing (PAT) requirements using Seaward test equipment.

Airbus’ Broughton facility includes two large industrial manufacturing units‚ with supporting administration and staff service areas. The largest of the engineering areas‚ at over 83‚500 sq metres‚ houses the manufacturing and wing assembly for the A380 airliner. Around 6‚000 people work on the site.

Given the variety of working environments and activities present on the site – including engineering‚ construction‚ office‚ kitchen‚ shop and public areas – there is an extremely wide variety of electrical equipment in use. These include both 230V and 110V hand held tools and portable equipment‚ 3-phase equipment‚ IT and office equipment and catering appliances.

Inviron’s PAT services include the scheduled and reactive testing of all electrical equipment and appliances‚ alongside test data records management and electrical repairs. As a result‚ the company’s team of engineers based at Broughton use different Seaward safety testers to meet the electrical test needs of different types of appliances.

In this way‚ with such a large site to cover and so many electrical appliances in use‚ the key to managing electrical safety at the Airbus Broughton site is the effective integration of equipment records‚ test procedures and future test scheduling.

Steve Salter‚ Inviron Engineer ‚ said: “Portable appliance testing is an important part of the health and safety and equipment maintenance policies.

“To meet this need‚ Comprehensive testing‚ traceability of results and unambiguous test records are all vital to demonstrate compliance. The use of Seaward PAT test technology helps us to achieve this and enables us to prove a proactive and electrical safety testing service to Airbus.”

Your PAT Questions Answered

The following Q&As are typical of the debate that regularly takes place on PAT issues at our Seaward forum.

Frequency of testing?

Q. What is the situation with test periods for different products? I know PCs are ok for at least 2 years, but not the extension leads to which they are connected. Also most B&B do not believe they have to have appliances tested at all – is this really the situation?

A. The IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection & Testing 3rd edition recommends the frequencies of inspection and electrical safety testing for different sectors of industry. For example, Items in B&B rooms are classed ‘Items Used by the Public’ and for handheld items such as a hair dryer, for example, normally a Class 2-combined visual inspection and test would be required every 12 months. A formal visual record of the equipment condition should be made every month.

If staff in the B&B use electrical equipment such as a floor cleaners (and other ‘portable appliances’) a combined visual record and test must be taken every 24 months and a formal visual record every 12 months.

A record of all results should be recorded and kept for the life of the equipment; that way whoever is carrying out the PAT testing can see if there is any deterioration in the appliance insulation, or plug condition etc.

It is not necessary by law to have items PAT tested, However if there was a fault in the equipment which led to an injury or death, as the business owner you would have to prove to the HSE or the Courts that your maintenance regime for electrical equipment is better than or is equal to that laid out by the IEE Code of Practice and the HSE Guidance Notes. When it comes to Health & Safety YOU have to prove your innocence – by showing that all reasonable steps have been taken to avoid injury or accident

How do I test ‘figure of 8’ mains leads?

Q. We have equipment which is powered by figure of eight mains leads. How do we PAT test these lead, considering that the lead settings on the some testers are only for mains leads with an I.E.C. connector? At present we do a test of the equipment with the lead connected and print a label twice.

A. The IEE Code of Practice recommends that a 2-core cord set should be tested as a Class II appliance. The recommendation is for visual inspection and polarity and insulation checks to be carried out.

Insulation resistance can be measured without a connection between the figure of eight connector and the tester as the test voltage is applied to the mains plug. The earth bond/insulation test clip is required to provide a return path for the insulation measurement. Again referring to the IEE Code, when testing insulation on a class II appliance the test probe should be connected to any metal parts or suspect joints in the enclosure where conductive material may have accumulated.

With regards to a polarity check, figure of eight connectors are not polarised and so this test is not appropriate. If we were to use some form of adaptor or converter to allow the figure of eight plug to be connected to the IEC test socket there is no way to determine which way round the figure of eight plug should be put in. If we plug it in, do the polarity check and it fails, reversing the figure of eight connector would "correct" the polarity as seen by the tester.

PAT tester calibration

Q. My PAT tester is 18 month old and I use it mainly to test my own equipment as a Training Consultant, and to offer a simple Pass/Fail service to customers as an offshoot to my main business. I've used the kit less than 100 times since purchase.

I know calibration is normally advised annually but with such a low usage isn't that factor to be taken into account? If so how often would you suggest I have my tester calibrated?

A. It is possible to extend the period between calibrations by using some form of verification device or checkbox to perform regular checks of your instrument. A risk assessment is commonly used to determine whether the interval between calibrations can be extended – what is the likelihood or probability of the instrument performance changing, based on the amount of usage, and what are the consequences of the device not performing correctly.

The IEE Code of Practice recommends that the on-going accuracy of test equipment is assessed using a reference circuits or checkbox and that records are kept. This is particularly useful as it allows the user to detect any change in performance over time. If you perform regular checks and find that there is no deviation in performance then this could be used as a justification for extending the calibration interval.

PAT Software Feature


Seaward’s market leading PATGuard software for PAT record keeping is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

With the maintenance of test results and records now recognised as a vital part of effective PAT solutions, we take a look at the various types of test data software programs now available.

With a competitive portable appliance testing market forcing all PAT contractors to work efficiently‚ linking the test functions of the tester to effective results management programs has taken on increased importance.

Uploading test data

As PAT testers have become more sophisticated, some have the ability to ‘pre-program’ the instrument with a special testcode (a test routine defined by a numeric sequence) at the start of the working day.

This is referred to as an upload capability and involves the ability to send an appliance number and testcode from PAT records held on a PC program to the instrument. By uploading this information into the tester, re-testing in the field can be speeded up considerably and detailed test histories can be maintained very easily.

Designed for more demanding PAT testing routines PATGuard Elite is a powerful software program that gives you complete control of the PAT testing process. The combination of data upload and download features can be used to create sophisticated asset registers for customers, grouping appliances by type or location and helping to track the movement of equipment between departments or different parts of a building.

These high level programs also come with a host of other functions and test templates – including the inclusion of ‘view only’ CD files that enable others to have copies of test records from a parent program that can be viewed without having a copy of the original record-keeping program software.

For contractors carrying out PAT testing as part of more general facilities management functions, software programs are available that include the ability to include reports and details of other health and safety related checks on equipment such as emergency lighting, fire alarms and fire extinguishers.

The complementary PATGuard Elite SQL has been developed for networking options enabling more than one user to access the program at the same time.

Manual data entry systems

Because most entry-level PAT testers provide simple pass/fail readings and do not have an internal memory for results storage, complementary software programs at this level permit manual entry of results.

At this level the Seaward PATGuard Elements program has been specifically designed for use with manual PAT testers to enable results to be incorporated into a formal PC–based record keeping system.

The program is intended for use by organisations that perform electrical safety testing and maintain their own records but who require a simplified database system.

Once testing has been undertaken and all data entered, it is also possible to produce special ‘certificates of testing’ that can be displayed in workplaces to highlight the electrical safety measured undertaken.

Direct data download

For those PAT testers equipped with a memory to record results, basic software packages are also available that enable the direct download of test results into database systems.

One of the most important considerations for users of PAT testers incorporating an internal memory is the compatibility between the test instrument and the PC program.

PATGuard Lite is an excellent entry level data download software program for results recording and certificate production. The PATGuard Pro program is more sophisticated and enables the capture of much more test information from the tester and can store more data on the appliance’s test history.

In addition some these two different level programs also allow different reporting options including the presentation of test histories for individual appliances for comparison or trend analysis purposes.

At all levels PATGuard record keeping programs provide real practical benefits – reducing costs, increasing productivity and providing a truly professional approach to test data management that can only help in the long term development of effective electrical safety records. 

Plastic Shoes Protect Toddler From Electric Shock

A national newspaper recently reported how having a pair of plastic shoes saved a three-year old boy from an electric shock.

The three year old was with his mother on a visit to a leisure centre near their home in South Ockendon, Essex, when a faulty hairdryer in a swimming pool changing room caused the boy to receive a massive electric shock.

Fortunately the little boy was wearing Croc plastic shoes, and although he suffered damage to his clothing and a small exit burn, medics believe the footwear acted as insulators by stopping the electricity passing into the ground.

A spokesperson for the leisure centre said that all electrical equipment is inspected regularly and there did not appear to be any damage on the unit on the day.

A safety inquiry is being carried out by Thurrock Council.

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