While the 5th Edition of the IET Code of Practice emphasises the need for risk assessment, partly to reduce unnecessary testing, it still requires that Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) be carried out by a competent person but what does that mean in real terms?

The Code describes competence as “a person possessing sufficient technical knowledge or experience to be capable of ensuring that risk is prevented.”

The Code further describes “technical knowledge” as “adequate knowledge of electricity and electrical work and adequate understanding of the equipment to be worked on. An awareness of the hazards that may arise and the precautions to be taken.”

When undertaking combined inspection and testing, a greater level of knowledge and experience is needed.  Furthermore, the person will need the right equipment to carry out the tests, the ability to use the test equipment properly and would also need to be able to properly understand the test results.

Laying the foundations for accurate and reliable PAT processes

Participation in regular training courses has become vital when it comes to understanding PAT procedures, establishing the frequency of testing and ensuring that the testing is carried out by a competent individual. Not only are PAT training courses important for employees, but they are also critical for the companies that employ them, providing the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge about testing and inspecting different electrical appliances; thereby assuring the safety of the people handling them and those surrounding them.

Organisations that neglect the inspection and testing of appliances or fail to nominate a competent or appropriately trained individual potentially risk invalidating their insurance policies and endangering lives. Should a fault arise in an appliance that is left unchecked or not properly checked by an under-qualified individual, the consequences could prove fatal.

Who can attend a PAT course?

Firstly, with the main emphasis on common sense, PAT testing does not need to be complicated. Most good course providers will help attendees to understand how to achieve the right balance, as well as teaching exactly what the law requires when it comes to keeping people safe. Although it is possible to achieve a formal City & Guilds qualification, it should be noted that this is not a pre-requisite as many professional PAT testing companies do not specify it.

What’s the best way to learn?

PAT testing is a practical skill.  The best way to learn is on a traditional training course run by an experienced provider, with a good mix of theory and hands-on practical experience.

Although online training plays a role and is particularly important in the context of today’s challenges there is no substitute for getting your hands on equipment and learning by doing.  What’s more, by attending a course in person, you will often have the opportunity to try out a variety of industry standard testers from the very basic entry level devices, right through to the latest computerised downloading PAT testing machines.

Will a course help me with my specific questions?

Another important factor to take into consideration when choosing a provider is course size.  A smaller group with a maximum of 10 – 12 people will allow the trainer to focus more closely on the practical sessions and take the time to answer individual questions.  This can be invaluable when it comes to safety and compliance and instils confidence in the attendee when transferring the skills learnt on a course to a real operating environment.

A safe learning environment – for safer working environments

One such course that ensures compliance with current legislation and working practices is Martindale’s own PAT testing training which includes the all-important hands-on session to provide delegates with the opportunity to trial different appliances under expert supervision.

With the Health and Safety Executive attributing 25% of all reportable electrical incidents to portable appliances, it is clear that a large number of incidents and injuries caused by misuse or faulty electrical equipment can be prevented with proper electrical checking, inspection and safety testing.  With that in mind, it’s not just the real-time testing of electrical appliances that is covered in our PAT training course, but we also look at how to prevent damage to electrical appliances helping to avoid potentially costly mistakes. We also work through tactics and strategies to avoid accidents and identify potential hazards before working on the equipment, which is of paramount importance. Our role in keeping people safe is very much focused on prevention.

Paul Wilson

UK & Ireland Sales Manager