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“Cheap PAT” (is cheap portable appliance testing worth it?)

You’d be suspicious if someone offered to sell you a brand new 42” plasma TV for £100.00 wouldn’t you?

But what about PAT at £0.90 per item tested?

Let’s get back to basics. As the old saying goes “you get what you pay for”

Remember; the very reason that you have your portable appliances tested is to ensure their electrical safety. You don’t want a fire or an electrocution, potentially followed swiftly by a prosecution. So surely, any compromise in the thoroughness of inspection and testing will defeat this objective. After all, you wouldn’t buy that 42” plasma even for £100.00 if it didn’t work would you?

But how do you know that your portable appliances have been tested properly, or even at all?

In recent times, there has been an inexorable downward slide in charges made by some of our competitors for PAT, there has been an even more significant slide in the quality of work carried out. Although the tests which the PAT instrument carries out are important, by far the most important aspect of the inspection & test is the visual inspection. We have come across many others who carry out no visual inspection whatsoever, this is evidenced by;

a)    the fact that plug-top seals (where fitted) have not been removed

b)    wrong sized fuses are fitted in plug-tops

c)    detachable items not inspected or tested separately

d)    hard-wired items affixed with PAT labels (these are not portable appliances and cannot be tested as PAT)

e)    reports of engineers just writing out labels and sticking them on items without testing at all.

Many of our competitors’ engineers are paid on a “fee per item tested” basis. This cannot be any incentive to do more than cram the maximum numbers into the minimum time.

Where is the quality control? Why would you pay for a job not done properly?

A manufacturer of PAT testing equipment approached us recently trying to sell us new PAT testing equipment , claiming that with his machine he has clients that regularly carry out 500-tests a day.

That’s just impossible if the job’s done properly. That would be a complete test every 1-minute 12-seconds in a 10-hour day on site

or

one complete test every 57-seconds in an 8-hour day without a break.

ETS has specialised purely in the area of inspection and testing since 1992. To do the job properly, our engineers will test and inspect between fifteen and twenty items per hour on site.

The Electricity at Work Regulations applies to all electrical equipment.
The source of energy, the distribution systems and the current consuming equipment.

Remember; “The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989” (which governs this area of Health and Safety) requires the following of the duty holder: -

Regulation 4 (2)
“All systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonable practicable, danger”. “System” means the wiring of an electrical installation and everything connected to it.

There is no law requiring inspection and testing be carried out at all, but the above demonstrates themeans to an end, and will provide the only really effective proof of maintenance, should the need arise.

In the case of a fire or electrocution, regulation 4 (2) will have been breached , because danger has arisen.

It is the duty holder’s absolute responsibility to ensure adequate maintenance. That responsibility does not pass to anyone else who supposedly carries out preventative maintenance and therefore in case of an accident, all in the chain could be liable to prosecution.

Defence against potential proceedings arising from a breach of Regulation 4 (2) is available;-

Regulation 29
“It shall be a defence for any person to prove that he or she took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commissioning of that offence”

Conclusion;

We will not compromise safety in favour of ridiculously cheap prices. It would be cheating and leaving us all vulnerable to an accident and all that goes with it.

It’s unwise to pay too much, but even more so to pay too little. Is cheap portable appliance testing really worth it?

Article written by;     Martin Lancaster, Eletrical Testing Surveyors Ltd.

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