When we were at school, many of us were taught that we live in a Solar System of nine planets. But these days, astronomy textbooks tell us that our solar system has only eight planets. Has one of these heavenly bodies gone missing? Not at all, in fact the reason for the change is that the asteroid known as Pluto was found to lack key characteristics which would qualify it as a planet. If our children came to us for help with their homework, it would be all too easy for us to tell them that the Solar System has nine planets. But things change over time, as do people’s perceptions of them. Checking with trustworthy reference sources from time to time keeps our knowledge up-to-date and accurate.
Regular checking is an underlying principle of the PAT Testing protocol. When any item, particularly an electrical appliance, is manufactured, it must comply with certain standards to ensure the safety of anyone who comes into contact with it. But as we have established, things change over time. The PAT testing process was conceived with the aim of creating a framework for the frequent testing of portable electrical equipment, with the aim of identifying faulty or damaged appliances and withdrawing them from use before they could hurt anyone.
The condition of any manufactured item will deteriorate over time, whether as a result of breakdown of materials, accidental damage, or general wear and tear. By affixing PAT testing stickers to appliances, engineers can reassure personnel in a work environment that their equipment has been inspected and deemed safe to use. Or by using ‘Failed’ PAT stickers, defective items can be marked out for repair or disposal.
One of the key items of information which appears on all PAT testing stickers is the date on which the inspection was conducted. A product which was only recently approved for use is likely still in good condition, but if an appliance has not been checked for a while, bits may have fallen off in the meantime – like Pluto. This, of course, leads us to ask, How often should PAT testing be conducted? How often is it required by law?
The simple answer is, UK law does not specify how frequently PAT test labels must be renewed. What the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 do say is that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury must be maintained in a safe condition. They don’t say what maintenance must be done, who can do it, or how frequently it must occur. However, the PAT testing process is widely regarded as one of the best ways companies can demonstrate reasonable compliance with these regulations and meet their responsibilities. If a tragic accident were to occur involving a piece of equipment which bore no trace of PAT test labels, questions would rightly be asked.
On their website, the Health and Safety Executive make suggestions on inspection frequencies for various types of equipment. In the meantime, make sure all your appliances are thoroughly tested and labelled with PAT stickers from Label Bar.