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The History Of Pat Testing

By Author: Darren Tonge
Total Articles: 2

Prior to 1989 the testing of electrical equipment for safety was fairly common in government departments, tool hire companies, and some other sectors of industry. However, it was the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which actually came into force on April 1 1990, that set the wheels in motion for what is now known as PAT testing.
Portable Appliance Testing has now become essential for any business which wishes to remain in compliance with the regulations. A portable appliance is basically anything that has a plug on one end of a cable that can be plugged into an electrical socket. The kettle in which you boil the water for your morning coffee or cup of tea is a portable appliance. So is your toaster, washing machine, tumble dryer, deep fat fryer, vacuum cleaner, table lamp, laptop, IT equipment, hand-held equipment, and a whole lot more. If it has a cable and a plug it is a portable appliance. Strangely, that also applies if it is a heavy piece of machinery that you cannot move about but is not actually affixed to the floor or wall or is an inherent part of a building. It is still, in that sense “portable”.
As a result of the regulations, which are, after all, law, there has been a growth in the development of PAT testing companies which actually do not do anything other than go from one business to another testing portable appliances. When you stop to think about it for a moment, we all have a large number of pieces of electrical equipment in our homes and businesses that we take for granted. What would we do without electricity?
Yes, you could also have gas. But do you really want to go back to gas lamps? Some gas works well, such as cookers, heating, and so on, but could you have a gas hair dryer, a gas laptop, or a gas TV?
That aside, the only other choice is a fire. So, for example, for your morning cup of tea you would have to make a fire using wood and perhaps coal. It would take you about half an hour to get a cup of tea!

However, the problem with all these things is that they can be dangerous. A fire can be dangerous, gas can be dangerous, and so can electricity. The particular problem with electricity is that it can kill you instantly, whereas fire and gas can do the same but take somewhat longer.
Even if electricity doesn’t kill you instantly, it can still cause problems. This writer has just very recently had the experience with a kettle. Granted, it was an old kettle, but it still boiled the water fast for the morning pot of tea. It was actually faster than the replacement now installed.
What happened was that all of the lights and power went down. I went to the (recently installed) switch box and re-set the switch. All was right for a few hours and then the lights went out again. This happened more and more often over a period of a few days, so I called an electrician. He went around my home and eventually found the kettle – plugged into the live socket - as many are. After all, why take it out? It’s just there when you need it.
As it turns out, the kettle had developed a fault, and although it still worked as required, was the cause of the problem. It was just a question of wear and tear. If you are not trained in electrical engineering, as I was not, and which applies to most people, you would never even begin to guess that it could be the cause of the problem. Obviously, it immediately got binned and a new kettle was purchased.
One of the many, now ubiquitous, PAT testing companies would have spotted this problem very quickly, as did the electrician I called. Luckily, the problem did not cause a fatal result, but it could so easily have done. I could, perhaps, have just switched it on one morning for my tea and not be here today to relate the tale to you.
When you stop to think about it, this is why PAT testing on a regular basis is so important. You get your car serviced regularly to prevent wear and tear and possible accidents, so why not your electrical equipment?
Hawkesworth Appliance Testing is one of the leading PAT testing companies in the UK and has over 100 engineers carrying out the legally required tests across the whole of the UK. Last year it completed over seven million tests.

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