When I’m out on site there are certain PAT testing tools I use all the time. Obviously the testing machine itself is one of them, so I’m not including it in this list. Some of my kit spends most of its time in my toolbag, or even my car boot. But there are a few items that go straight into my trouser pockets.
PAT testing tool #1 – Knife
My tiny penknife is fantastic. It removes labels, helps strip wires for changing plugs, scrapes grease so I can get an earth point, and occasionally bites me when I forget to close it before I put it in my pocket. Adrian had it in the toolbox under the sink for years, until I commandeered it for my own use.
PAT testing tool #2 – Probe
People rarely mention the probe, but it’s essential for PAT testing. Basically, some appliances are only safe if they have a good connection to the earth path in the mains electricity. The probe helps us check that the wire inside the appliance which makes that connection is sound, by creating a full circuit from the PAT testing machine into the appliance and back to the machine. This is usually referred to as an earth continuity test.
It can’t check the connection in the mains, however; that’s part of the periodic electrical installation inspection carried out by your electrician.
PAT testing tool #3 – Screwdrivers
If you’re opening every plug that can be opened, you need screwdrivers. (They’re also handy for gently shifting cobwebs and checking for spiders before I put my hand in somewhere!)
I always have at least three on me – a cross-head and flat-head for doing plugs, plus a stubby little one with a large flat-head because the battery cover on the tester is screwed on with a large screw. If I had any criticism of my tester, it’d be that screw. Why can’t it be smaller, so that I could save precious toolbag space rather that carrying a tool specifically for that?
PAT testing tool #4 – Wire cutters
Another tool that serves more than one purpose. Wire cutters also work fantastically on cable ties (one of my personal bugbears) and that awful plastic packaging that invariably cuts me as I cut it. They speed up getting rid of twist ties on my sandwich bag, too – the faster I eat, the sooner I’m back working.
I actually carry them for cutting down damaged leads and replacing or removing plugs, but if I can find other uses for things I’m always happy to multifunction them!
PAT testing tool #5 – Me
OK, yes, let’s get the jokes over with first. I’m a tool, especially when it comes to telling my left from my right (but fortunately not my live from my neutral!)
Seriously though, it’s the PAT tester who plays the biggest part in getting it all together. None of these PAT testing tools mean anything if they aren’t used properly by someone with appropriate knowledge.
For example, the longer a lead is, the greater the resistance. If the lead is longer than a certain length the machine will automatically fail the item because the resistance is too great. However, if I know that the lead should be fine and it’s just the length that’s causing problems, I can tell the machine to do a calculation (or even do it on paper myself) to prove that actually, that lead is safe. Knowing that there is a calculation, and how and when to do it, is one of the slightly finer points of PAT testing. It’s also something that the cheap label jockeys aren’t interested in; doing the calculation takes time, and they’d rather not bother – assuming they even know about it in the first place.
Some surge – protected extension leads now have a label on the bottom to tell PAT testers they will fail a standard extension lead test, and need a special test. This started after many customers returned new extension leads, complaining that their cheap PAT tester had failed them.
This is why we sometimes hear of engineers testing their own leads, which are short enough to avoid the calculation issue and don’t need unplugging, checking, testing, and refitting into place. It’s like a garage skipping all the long work in a service by topping up the oil but charging you for a full oil and filter change, or a restaurant claiming your meal was homemade then serving you a ready meal with a bit of garnish on it.
Of course I carry other tools and equipment, but these are my essential PAT testing tools – I couldn’t do my job without them.