PAT, or Portable Appliance Testing, is one of my pet grumbles. Not the PAT itself, as a qualified PAT tester I understand the necessity for testing of equipment, but my grumble is about many of the people who carry it out. The television show, Rogue Traders, would have a field day with some of these people. However, before I start my rant I am sure there are all sorts of well respected, hard working, honest individuals out there who conduct tests honestly and reliably – but how do you tell the good ones from the bad?
In my experience, and I have seen a fair few of them at work, there are very few people carrying out PAT who really understand the requirement and the process. Often, PAT will be described by a potential supplier as a legal requirement when a PAT itself is not actually a legal requirement, it is simply a means to an end. The purpose of equipment testing is to provide a safe working environment and to be seen to be safe – quite often PAT requires little more than a visual check and it is important to know which test to apply under which scenario.
In the past I have had to escort one particular PAT testers off the premises as they had been cancelled yet still turned up on a Saturday morning when a production shift was in and they blagged their way into the offices. Once the job is done, they want to get paid right? Wrong mister.
Let me illustrate with an example. Our latest PAT tester was carrying out tests and labelling the devices with a test date two months prior to the date he was actually conducting the test. When I quizzed him about it he assured me all was ok and he was simply using the date when he had started PAT testing our equipment. He also told me it would be silly to put the actual test date on each label as that would make updating his computer records more time consuming. Hang on a minute, you are putting an invalid date on the test labels aren’t you? He eventually became shirty and stopped talking to me.
Now, he’s tested our Hewlett Packard A3 8150 duplex printer which I can tell you is a helluva large piece of equipment, heavy too which is why it has not been moved in the five years it has been in place. But there it is – all labelled up. But what is this? He had not tested the christmas lights on the christmas tree right by the printer. Now, which do you think is most likely to pose a health and safety hazard due to being moved as a portable appliance?
It also annoys me when they insist on fully testing double-insulated cables. They are double-insulated for lords sake. They do not need a full test – just a visual check to enure they are not physically damaged. But no, lets disconnect everything – blast it on his DESTROYER1000, or whatever it is called, piece of testing equipment that he lumbers around. I cannot begin to tell you the number of monitors that have been popped over the years as a result of the DESTROYER1000. Co-incidence? I do not think so.
Brand new equipment, it has all been tested. Brand new equipment does not need testing for its first 12 months of life. Come on, read the flippin’ paperwork will you.
He has tested my laptop power lead and the other laptop power leads he can see. This is the power lead on the floor, not the one in my laptop bag, nor the one at home in my home study. Same goes for everyone else in the office with a laptop. So how safe are we I wonder? Where was was the question – do you have any other cables with these devices?
Oh, and he is paid ‘piece work’ so thank you very much for mentioning the christmas lights and extra leads – I will get onto them right away. The next morning I am left with non-working equipment. Equipment that has not been plugged back in, routed back into place, and equipment that does not work any more for some ‘strange’ reason that is left for me to deal with. The number of trip hazards has increased massively as the tester seems to feel it is out of their remit to put the equipment back where they found it.
And guess what, it will not be a year before he is back – because he has mislabelled the equipment. He, or one of his colleagues, will be back in nine months time for another pocket full of cash.
There really should be some check or regulation in place to ensure the people we rely on to ensure our equipment is safe are actually qualified, experienced and knowledgeable enough, to do the job.