Pat testing or portable appliance testing is an important part of any health & safety policy. This is intended as a guide to both the legal implications and to the technical requirements.
The Health & Safety Executive states that 25% of all reportable electrical accidents involve portable appliances. The Electricity at Work Regulations place a legal responsibility on employers, employees and self-employed persons to comply with the provisions of the regulations and take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that no danger results from the use of such equipment. This in effect requires the implementation of a systematic and regular program of maintenance, inspection and testing. The Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) places such an obligation in the following circumstances:
The level of inspection and testing required is dependant upon the risk of the appliance becoming faulty, which is in turn dependant upon the type of appliance, the nature of its use and the environment in which it is used.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (The IET) publish the Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment (ISBN: 978-1849196260). This guide forms the basis for portable appliance testing in the U.K.
The legislation of specific relevance to electrical maintenance is the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 puts the duty of care upon both the employer and the employee to ensure the safety of all persons using the work premises. This includes the self employed.
The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states:
Every employer shall make suitable and sufficient assessment of:
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states:
Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.
The PUWER 1998 covers most risks that can result from using work equipment. With respect to risks from electricity, compliance with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 is likely to achieve compliance with the PUWER 1998.
PUWER 1998 only applies to work equipment used by workers at work. This includes all work equipment (fixed, transportable or portable) connected to a source of electrical energy. PUWER does not apply to fixed installations in a building. The electrical safety of these installations is dealt with only by the Electricity at Work Regulations.
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states:
All systems shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable such danger.
As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger.
System means an electrical system in which all the electrical equipment is or may be, electrically connected to a common source of electrical energy and includes such source and such equipment
Electrical Equipment includes anything used, intended to be used or installed for use, to generate, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy.
Scope of the legislation
It is clear that the combination of the HSW Act 1974, the PUWER 1998 and the EAW Regulations 1989 apply to all electrical equipment used in, or associated with, places of work. The scope extends from distribution systems down to the smallest piece of electrical equipment.
It is clear that there is a requirement to inspect and test all types of electrical equipment in all work situations.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires, every employer to ensure that work equipment is suitable for the purpose for which it is provided, only used in the place and under the provisions for which it is provided. It also requires every employer to ensure work equipment be efficiently maintained and kept fit and suitable for its intended purpose. It must not be allowed to deteriorate in function or performance to such a leval that it puts people at risk. This means that regular, routine and planned maintenance regimes must be considered if hazardous problems can arise.
Regulation 3 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 recognises a responsibility that employers and many employees have for electrical systems.
It shall be the duty of every employer and self employed person to comply with the provisions of the Regulations in sar far as they relate to matters which are within his control.
It shall be the duty of every employee while at work:
(a) to co-operate with his employer so far as is necessary to enable and duty placed on that employer by the provision of the Regulations to be complied with:
(b) to comply with the provision of these regulations in so far as they relate to matters which are within his control.
There are many European standards and guidance notes regarding portable appliances and equipment, though they do not establish a common and specific definition of such equipment. Even so, there does seem to be a consensus of opinion that such equipment is either hand held whilst being connected to the supply, or is intended to be moved whilst connected to the supply, or is capable of being moved without undue difficulty whilst connected to the supply.
It is usual for this equipment to be connected to the supply via a plug and socket, however this is not a requirement for electrical equipment to be deemed portable or transportable. It is common to define a portable appliance by saying that it is 'anything with a plug top on the end of it'. This is a mistake as it may mean that there are some appliances in the system that are never tested.
The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (napit) define a portable appliance as 'any electrical item which can or is intended, to be moved whilst connected to an electrical supply.
The IEE Code of Practice gives guidance on the various equipment types:
An appliance of less than 18kg in mass that is intended to be moved whilst in operation or an appliance which can easily be moved from one place to another, e.g. vacuum cleaner, toaster, food mixer, etc.
This equipment is either
18 kg or less in mass and not fixed, e.g. electric fire.
Equipment with wheels, castors or other means to facilitate movement by the operator as required to perform its intended use, e.g. air conditioning unit.
This is portable equipment intended to be held in the hand during normal use, e.g. hair dryer.
This equipment has a mass exceeding 18kg and is not provided with a carrying handle, e.g. refrigerator.
This equipment or an appliance which is fastened to a support or otherwise secured in a specific location, e.g. bathroom heater.
This equipment id intended to be installed in a prepared recess such as a cupboard or similar. In general, equipment for building in does not have exposure on all sides because one or more of the sides, additional protection against electrical shock is provided by the surroundings, e.g. built in electric cooker.
Information technology equipment includes electrical business equipment such as computers and mains powered telecommunications equipment, and other equipment for general business use, such as mail processing machines, VDU's, photocopiers.
The Health & Safety Executive offers no absolute rules on the frequency of the testing and inspection of portable appliances. The Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations suggests that 'regular inspection of equipment is an essential part of any preventative maintenance program', but no attempt is made to specify the intervals of time implied by the word 'regular'. The reason for this omission is obvious; different situations require different measures in order to meet the requirement that the danger is prevented. The factors which effect the frequency of testing must be assessed by the duty holder who thereby makes the judgement.
In arriving at a judgement as to the frequency of testing, a duty holder is likely to assess the following factors:-
The IEE Code of Practice recognises four test situations.
This document is limited in covering topics concerned with In Service Testing only.
This is the testing carried out as a routine to determine whether the equipment is in a satisfactory condition.
In-Service testing will involve the following:
Electrical testing should be performed by a person who is competent in the safe use of the test equipment and who knows how to interpret the test results obtained. This person must be capable of inspecting the equipment and, where necessary, dismantling it to check the cable connections.
If equipment is permanently connected to the fixed installation, e.g. by a flex outlet or other accessory, the accessory will need to be detached from its box or enclosure so that the connections can be inspected. Such work should only be carried out by a competent person.
The Electricity at Work regulations states that:
No person shall be engaged in any work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger, or where appropriate, injury, unless he possesses such knowledge or experience, or is under such degree of supervision as may be appropriate having regard to the nature of the work
The IEE Code of Practice states, those carrying out the inspection and testing must be competent to undertake the inspection and, where appropriate, testing of electrical equipment and appliances having due regard of their own safety and that of others. What should be considered is that the 'danger' to be prevented, includes not just the dangers which may arise during the testing procedure to the tester and others, but also the dangers which may arise at a later date as a result of using equipment which has not been effectively tested.
The tester must have an understanding of the modes of electrical, mechanical or thermal damage to electrical equipment and appliances and their flexes which may be encountered in any environment.
Training must include the identification of equipment and appliance types to determine the test procedures and frequency of inspection and testing. Persons testing must be familiar with the test instruments used and in particular their limitations and restrictions so as to achieve repeatable results without damaging the equipment or the appliance.
Pat testing or portable appliance testing
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