All electrical appliances should be routinely checked. This ensures they’re appropriately safe for use, and function in accordance to expected capability. PAT testing is most commonly found in commercial and industrial sectors, given the level of usage in these environments. Furthermore, the operational capability of enterprises in these settings, is often wholly reliant on their electrical systems and equipment performing correctly. Therefore, PAT testing is of central importance to many business stakeholders up and down the country. Although there is no formal legislation in place, businesses are expected to provide colleagues with safe equipment for use. Therefore, although there is no legal requirement to PAT test, its best practice to regularly conduct this form of testing. Electrical assessments should always ideally take place by a qualified electrician. This means that they would have either acquired an ECS gold card, or undertaken a specific PAT testing qualification. For example, this could be the City and Guilds 2377-77 EET/PAT Testing Course.
Given the number of appliances that could be required to be tested in any one workplace, equipment identification is key. Highlighting items that have already been subjected to testing within an assessment cycle, supports electricians to test accurately and efficiently. Furthermore, a robust identification process mitigates against the risk of appliances being missed whilst undertaking the testing. This article offers information and comment on PAT testing labels. This is the most regularly deployed used tool to support PAT testing identification activity.
The importance of labels
Although there is no legislative obligation around any PAT testing practice, labelling is imperative in demonstrating diligence. Simplistically, PAT testing labels are deployed to demonstrate that an electrical appliance has been PAT tested. They’re often relatively large, so employees can be swiftly prompted to an item’s testing status. However, the information articulated on the label will differ dependent on which supplier has produced the sign. In order to provide the optimum level of detail, this article intends to review all of the potential material included.
Most importantly, the label will denote whether the item has passed or failed the inspection. By advertising this clearly, users can suitably avoid operating equipment which hasn’t been deemed safe. This will be most likely facilitated by the engineer offering a tick against a simple ‘PASS’ or ‘FAIL’ description.
Labels may contain an appliance ID. These ID’s associate a specific piece of equipment to a corresponding, unique number. This allows identical appliances to be easily separated, by whether or not they’ve been recently tested. Therefore, this serves to avoid duplicate or missed testing. This reduces a considerable risk for large-scale workplaces, where mass industrial or commercial process can lead to vast quantities of the same electrical equipment. Thus, application ID’s also aid management control systems. Leadership teams can easily locate, and subsequently guide employees, on which select appliances are fit for use.
Last test date
Most PAT testing stickers will include confirmation of when the last assessment was conducted. As testing on a frequent basis would be costly and unproductive, most labels will just include month and year options. However, its worth remembering that PAT testing only provides safety assurance at the specific moment the review undertaken. For example, if ‘November,’ was noted in the month column, this does not guarantee the appliance for the month’s entirety. And certainly not beyond!
Nevertheless, operators should feel more confident using equipment that has been more recently tested. You can’t ever be too sure, however, testing date proximity usually translates to appliance safety and effectiveness. Therefore, individuals should always, where possible, opt for items with recent test dates.
In conjunction with testing date information, electricians will often have the ability to denote when re-testing is due. As we know, there is no fixed timeframe around testing schedules. However, the industry-recognised standard is to implement PAT testing, on every appliance, once per year. Therefore, the date entered into the ‘re-test’ column will be wholly dependent on the business’ approach to testing. Electricians, if working on behalf of clients, should be sure to confirm the desired level of regulatory prior to completing their assessment. The re-test date provides local stakeholders with another effective management control system. In having an awareness of when next tests are due, leadership teams can demonstrate an appropriate level of vigilance during audits. It also allows them to prompt electrician re-visits, or guide colleagues away from equipment when testing timeframes elapse.
Accountability through name
Most labels will include the name of the engineer who conducted the PAT testing activity. This offers a point of contact for building teams in case of future issues or if further support is required. Furthermore, it creates a transparent accountability, as clarity is given on who was responsible for delivering the testing.
Remember, as there is no legal guidance around this task, in theory, the person undertaking the assessment can be an internal member of staff. However, this ideally should only be the case in relatively low-risk workplace environments, such as small offices using appliances infrequently. Regardless, these individuals should still be afforded some degree of electrical safety training, and should only complete visual checks of equipment. More involved PAT procedures involve physically testing items using specialist electrical tools. Nevertheless, most key electrical faults can be detected via a simple visual inspection. If repair work is then to be conducted, then clearly no employee should attempt to address without liaising with an electrical professional.
As an extension of an engineer’s individual credentials, some labels will also have space to fill out the company they’re contracted to. This will usually include the businesses name, address, and contact information. This means that workplace employees can efficiently reach out to electrical firms in the event of an issue, without having to trawl through prior correspondence. Furthermore, leaving a contact number will most likely lead to repeat business when testing comes round again. Incorporating logos onto testing stickers also provides an opportunity to elevate brand profile through subtle advertisement.
More advanced PAT testing labels incorporate techniques to electronically tether appliances to reporting systems. Digital data can be integrated into barcodes. Therefore, when a piece of equipment is accordingly scanned, relevant information can be accessed. This not only allows electricians to quickly detect when an item is due for re-assessment, but will also provide detail on test history. In this way, historical faults linked to the appliance can be acknowledged, encouraging the servicer to be more vigilant around potential specific issues. It also removes the necessity, for those who wish to document this detail, of painstakingly writing out fault information by hand.
Some label manufacturers produce ‘quick pass’ PAT labels, which are purposefully streamlined to only offer a pass/fail tick box. This is perfect for those engineers conducting mass testing, as completing date, personal, and company information can be a protracted process.
In terms of materials, PAT testing labels are usually produced using adhesive agents, so they can comfortably stick to equipment shells. They will also most likely have a vinyl base, as this provides durability for wear and tear. Although water is the last thing you would want around most electrical equipment, labels will often be waterproof. This means that inscribed information cannot become compromised.
So, there you have it, an overview of the use and importance of PAT testing labels in workplace environments. Remember, for those initiating PAT testing activity, it is entirely down to them how little or often they organise the assessment of equipment. However, employers do have a responsibility to offer safe and well-maintained kit for colleagues to use. Testing should ideally be conducted by a qualified electrician, or, at worst, a competently trained employee. If ever ordering labels, it’s worth remembering that suppliers produce an extensive range of PAT testing signs and stickers. These are equipped with various surface information, and generated using different manufacturing materials.
The most important thing that PAT testing delivers is to provide awareness of whether electrical appliance is safe for use. When in your respective workplace, only use equipment you know to be safe, and make sure you’re confident it’s been tested by an appropriate individual or electrical engineer. If you require more information on PAT testing, or its associated labels, please consult either your course tutor, or an industry professional.