PAT testing qualification / Equipment advice

As I’ve mentioned often before I’m a volunteer a a wildlife charity both driving to collect and release wildlife and sorting out donations in the back office. Recently the guy who does the PAT testing of our electrical donations has retired due to ill health and I have been asked to step in.

My background is in computer repairs but I have no formal experience in mains related work.

I would only be testing domestic equipment, nothing industrial or hard wired to an installation. Kettles, tv’s, light fittings and stereo’s etc.

Can any one advise.

  1. What is the level of online training and certification required.
  2. What model of PAT tester would do the job? Is a used one worth the risk reliability wise.

I’ve spent ages looking on line and there seems to be different levels of each which I’m struggling to understand.

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@Valvebloke may have an idea or two :+1:

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Currently
No specific qualifications are required , the regulations only require the testing to be done by a competent person. The definition of a competent person in the regulations is - "A person possessing sufficient technical knowledge or experience to be capable of ensuring that injury is prevented.
Our caretaker does ours, he attended a one day city and guilds course for his own Peace of mind.

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Yes, I’d read that and can see it’s logical for physical external damage. But if you need to check with a PAT tester and like me you have no idea how to operate it it puts me firmly in the incompetent area. I know it basically shoves lots of volts down the cable and looks for leakage but I’ve never used one and don’t know what I would be looking for.

I think the charity will also need some sort of certificate for insurance purposes.

I’ll look into C&G course locally - thanks.

Maybe @Kevin might have an idea as to how it applies to charities?

I sort of remember someone coming round PAT testing computers, kettles etc and all they did was look at the mains cable and plug it into something that looked like a Russ Andrews socket, then put a sticker around the cable.

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It’s the russ abbots bit that the sticking point.

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Decent PAT testers are very simple devices with intuitive interfaces, you won’t struggle.

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Do the course.Get the kit. Make sure you keep records.
The kit does the techy stuff but you have to do the physical inspection.
Remember all the PAT test does is prove somthimg is safe. You will still have to functionally test it to sell it as fit for purpose.

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I have some idea, but the situation is complex. As I understand it, there’s essentially no specific legislative requirement for PAT testing under any circumstances. Testing is carried out by people who believe that doing so will help them demonstrate, should the need arise, that they took all reasonable measures to make sure that equipment was safe, because ensuring safety is what they are actually obliged to do. If an offence has been committed then that will be because the kit will have turned out to have actually been unsafe. There is no specific offence of kit not having been tested.

I started to write a long spiel about the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 and the relevant standards that apply under those regs. Then I stopped. The fact is that no-one behind a shop counter should need to become an expert in that. Mick’s charity will have insurers who will cover them if there is a claim made that the kit they’ve sold has harmed someone. They will also (I imagine) have a lawyer who will stick up for them if Trading Standards turn up on their doorstep accusing them of selling unsafe electrical kit. As I understand it those are the only two things which, in the real world, might go wrong. In return for covering you and sticking up for you, the insurers and the lawyer should be able to tell you how they expect you to behave. That might, or might not, include expecting you to PAT test the kit that you sell. The only way to find out whether it does is to ask them. Better still might be to write to them saying what you plan to do and asking them to let you know if they’re not happy with it.

If the person at the charity who will be responsible for doing the testing doesn’t have a consumer electronics background, and a familiarity with at least the basics of the safety testing, then I imagine it would be a very good idea to send them on some sort of PAT testing training course. There are plenty out there to choose from. The more you pay, the more you should learn, and the more impressive should be the certificate that you leave with. But I think anyone can set themselves up as a PAT testing trainer. That’s one reason why there’s such a wide range of confusing advice out there. Quite a few such trainers are stating that what are in fact just their personal views are somehow formal/legal ‘rules’ or ‘requirements’. Safety professionals have been arguing for decades that PAT testers’ standards are not consistent, and are sometimes demonstrably wrong. But in the end that just comes down to the quality of their training and, if they’re working for a business, their management.

As far as the specific question of second-hand PAT testing equipment goes, I wouldn’t have a problem with using a second-hand tester as long as I was confident that it was working properly. I believe quite a few of the manufacturers offer testing and calibration services for their kit and that would be one way of establishing confidence. Another would be to take it along to whatever training course you go on and getting the people who run the course to OK it. If they can’t do that then I’d start to worry about their competence. Yet another would be to test/calibrate it yourself. The tests it carries out are pretty simple. It wouldn’t be very hard to mock up a ‘faulty’ item then to use your tester on it and confirm that the tester detected the ‘fault’ correctly.

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Annual testing / recalibration of test equipment is likely to be a requirement of any overarching insurance that the tester is covered by. I’d expect the ‘employer’ in this instance to pay for the equipment, the training, and recal costs. Otherwise I’d walk away. Charities are invariably loaded.

Were I Mick I would want documentary evidence that insurance exists which covers him for any personal liability (including things like legal expenses) should a claim be made. Again, if not forthcoming - I’d walk away.

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I used to do PAT for my own tools before I was retired by COVID. Mrs Maureens messages give the correct approach to the situation.
I suggest that you buy and read Portable Appliance Testing by Brian Scaddan. Having read it you will know whether you want to take on the responsibility of the testing. Then you can book a one day course and tell your charity to provide calibrated test equipment for you. It is not rocket science. It is designed for non technical people to do but remember you are testing whether the kit is safe to plug in not whether or not it works.

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Use electrical kit at home for years and never once worried about PAT testing. In work and a brand new out the box laptop and power lead gets PAT tested. From this I deduce it’s just about companies mitigating financial risk for a small outlay.

As others have said, check what the insurance companies want, it’s only ever about the money and you don’t want to be the one being held liable. Insurance companies are generally bastard who will look for any avenue to not pay up.

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Yes. That was the same where I worked. When we used our in-house techs to do it we occasionally found that brand new out of the box stuff failed too - infamously some high current LV bench power supplies, supplied by one of the big electronics factors, whose metal cases were not reliably safety-grounded. To be fair, the suppliers were very apologetic about it.

We then went to contracting the PAT testing out. Some bean counter thought it might be cheaper. Standards fell spectacularly. They moved round the site on a schedule, supposedly visiting every dept once a year for a few weeks. So your new kit could take up to 11 months before it was first tested. If you happened to be out of your office/lab on the day they showed up then they could miss huge amounts of kit as they were under instruction (rightly) not to unplug anything that was running.

Mick after you have read all the advice here and you are still comfortable with taking your course I have a PAT tester you can have it will just need a calibration cert which any local electrical wholesalers will do. Just give me notice as I have no idea in amongst the boxes from the move where it is.

I used it to pat test my team’s power tools and pc equipment for a few years

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Thank you.

I’ve been reading it all and taking it in.

I will certainly be doing the coarse and ensure we are covered by the insurance requirements.

Interesting times.

take the rough with the smooth

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Fingers!