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Home PAT Testing news News Only humans can cut accident risks

Only humans can cut accident risks

Dear Editor, The article "PAT on the back for testers", (Electronics Weekly 14/02/2001) struck a chord particularly the comment that in one year alone, 2,000 fires were caused by faulty mains leads.

The inference being that portable appliance testing (PAT) would have reduced or removed this risk. Well, I'm sorry, but from my experience you can have the most wonderful PAT tester available and all the software you like to drive it but the fundamental has to be that the operator has to understand the main reason for carrying out the test in the first place.

Four or so years ago my company introduced PAT testing for all applicable appliances and the separate mains leads which frequently go with these. As this was a huge exercise, we employed an undergraduate to carry out the testing.

After six weeks or so he finally got around to testing the PCs in the engineering lab. One afternoon I returned to my desk to find Safety check stickers fixed to every piece of equipment on my desk. Fine thought I, everything is hunky dory and nothing to worry about then. Wrong!

A quick check of the mains lead on the PC showed that the item which our student had passed as safe, had the sheath hanging out of the moulded IEC connecter and therefore no fundamental strain relief. A further check on several other items of equipment showed that this was not an isolated incident.

These leads had been approved for use for four years on the basis of passing the electrical test When I pointed out the obvious error to the young chap, he simply stated that all he had to do was plug the lead in and push the button. A pass meant precisely that as far as he was concerned.

My point is simple. Fires, or other risks, caused by faulty electrical leads or equipment will not necessarily be reduced by the use of PAT testing alone. 95% of problems will be obvious to the naked eye of an experienced individual and this is where the responsibility for safety should rest and not with someone who is given a crash course in how to push buttons! Until it is addressed correctly, I won't wager my safety on a little sticker.

Gordon Campbell, Racal-MESL Richard Ball replies:

Gordon makes a very good point. The best equipment in the world is no good without a thorough visual test. All good test contractors will do this routinely. If you use an undergraduate, they need training as much as anyone else.

Source: Access My Library