We do a lot of work in youth centres and clubs. In many ways, teenagers can be the hardest on their electrical equipment. Chargers and laptops get thrown into bags and bashed around. Their rooms are filled with games consoles and TVs with piles of clothes and homework stacked around them. They might not have much money, so if a charger dies they’ll probably replace it with a cheap knock-off. And they often don’t have a healthy respect for safe use of electrical equipment.
Risk assessments in youth centres
There’s an old saying – “Never work with children or animals”. This is mainly because they’re both unpredictable.
The IET Code of Practice, which is the reference tool when thinking about PAT testing, gives guidelines as to how often items should initially be inspected and/or tested in schools. However, some people don’t realise that this is based on the items being used by a supervisor, teacher or member of staff. Items used by students may be at much higher risk of damage, and your risk assessment should take note of this.
(The guidelines are on “the initial frequency of inspection and testing” becuase they are literally just that. The IET says how often they think you might need PAT testing carried out, but if you find that a lot of items fail then you might want to consider doing it more frequently. If everything passes every single time, maybe you can have it done less frequently.)
Hand holding – when to let go?
Schools, youth centres, and youth clubs all have a very difficult job to do – supervising young people, keeping them safe, hopefully furthering their education or at least keeping them out of trouble. One teacher might be supervising a class of around thirty students – it must be like herding cats. How can you possibly make sure all the electrical equipment is being used safely and properly?
For example, a school I visited last year had soldering irons in two classrooms. Nearly every one needed a replacement plug, because the students had used the hot soldering tip to melt holes in the plugs.
I also did the PAT testing for a private all-girls school which taught the students how to wire plugs. The teachers had been forced to bend the earth pin on every plug they used, because the girls were plugging their newly-wired toys into the wall sockets and whipping each other with the cut ends of the wires. I hasten to add that these kids weren’t getting a cheap education – this was a very pricey establishment!
Educating students on the dangers of electricity, thorough and regular checks of electrical equipment by a member of staff, and immediately removing from service any item which needs repair or replacement can all help.
Youth centres and youth clubs
Youth centres and youth clubs face a slew of other issues too. They may be doing activities not usually found in schools, and possibly in less formal environments. There may also be equipment plugged in brought from the students’ homes. For this reason we would usually recommend more frequent PAT testing, at least until enough inspections have been carried out to establish a solid risk assessment.
If you allow children to bring in their own equipment, it’s worth keeping abreast of any items which may have been recalled, such as this Apple Beats Pill XL Speaker which can present a fire risk. You can learn more about product recalls on the Electrical Safety First website, or follow us on Pinterest where we keep a board updated with any recalls we learn of. You can also sign up to our email list for safety updates.
Until next time,