Why is guidance so important in PAT testing? Did you know that the fire which devastated part of Windsor Castle in 1992 was caused by a lamp left in the wrong place? A decorator had left a 1000 watt halogen spotlight too close to a curtain. The light put out enough heat to ignite the curtain. The resulting fire needed 35 fire engines to bring it under control, and it took five years and £37,000,000 to rebuild the castle.
Location, Location, Location
All of which explains why the location of your electrical appliance is considered when we test it. Computers found in a bathroom are not fit for purpose unless they’re waterproof. Your leaf blower is safe to use outside, but not your hoover. No, not even the wet-and-dry one. Electrical appliances in a wet environment are not safe unless they are specifically designed for that location.
Wider considerations in PAT testing
Sometimes an item might be affected by its location, so we have to look harder to find out why. For example, I tested a washing machine at a golf club recently which failed. The site electrician had a look at it the next day, ran his own PAT test, and it passed. He called me back to retest the dishwasher with my own equipment and it passed for me too.
Why would we get such different results on the same machine? I’ll admit, this one took a little lateral thinking. We realised that there was a hole in the wall near the washer. Originally there had been plans to put a tumble dryer there and feed the extractor pipe through the hole, but those plans had changed. The washing machine had been put close to the hole, leaving room for the dryer.
On the day of my original test, it had been pouring with rain. The moisture from the air was getting into the back of the washing machine, causing it to short out and fail PAT testing. The next day, when it had dried out a little, it passed. Clearly, the water in the back of the machine could make it unsafe and also shorten its lifespan, so we advised the owner that the hole needed filling as soon as possible to make the machine safe. In the meantime, the machine should be moved to a dry place.
A little disruption
This is why we cause a little disruption when we come to test your workplace. To test properly, every appliance must be checked thoroughly. That industrial washing machine could have been a few thousand pounds to replace, and the new one would have had exactly the same problem. By pulling the machine out from the wall and having a good look around at the environment, we were able to reduce that bill to a bag of cement and some wood.
In some cases it’s not even that much. We often advise customers on cable management, which sounds like petty niggles until you read stories like this. Extension leads should be used with extreme caution and never tucked under beds, carpets, rugs or other items which could hide signs of damage.
We offer cable management guidance to help you save money on repairs and replacement items, but ultimately putting the right item in the right place can prevent serious damage.
We give our customers guidance at most of the sites we visit, on subjects varying from product recalls and unsafe appliances to ensuring sockets and extension leads are not overloaded.
So if your PAT tester isn’t giving you or your staff any feedback or guidance, consider – is your site perfect, or is your tester cutting corners and missing hazards?
Until next time,