The PAT man cometh

I’ve had bad experience with PAT testing companies in the past – a service of dubious merit often run on disingenuous lines because people believe something terrible will happen if they don’t have a bi-annual test (or annual if they can be persuaded there’s some law or other stating they need to). Still, if it makes the punters happy why should I deprive them of portable appliance testing companies of a living.

But, PAT testers can damage kit. They don’t do it often but once is too much, and their automated boxes and tick sheets are banned hereabouts – replaced with a proper inspection and assessment of all aspects of electrical and mechanical safety, not just earth leakage.

Unfortunately one site we look after had a visit from a PAT tester in December. Then, this month they had a power cut, and all their PCs went blank in spite of maintained UPS units, which had all been serviced in November. My heart sank when I saw the green label of a PAT tester on our UPS units – had they blown up all the inverters or what?

The batteries tested okay, both in the units and on the bench when I opened one to check. Then the penny dropped: The idiots had plugged the PCs in to any old socket on the back of the unit. Some of the sockets are surge-protected, some are maintained (battery backed). They’d just reconnected the cables by starting at the bottom and working up, so it was pure chance as to whether the PCs were on a maintained socket or not – in fact most weren’t.

Do I blame these “fully trained” PAT testing operatives? Well no – they haven’t got much concept of what they’re actually doing and the training consists of plugging something in, pressing a button, and checking to see whether the red or green light comes up. (Some may be competent electrical engineers, but its certainly not a requirement). But please keep them away from me and my equipment.

4 Replies to “The PAT man cometh”

    1. I just come across this after watching a pat man trying to con me as he didn’t know what I do for a living ! Pressing a button on a PAC500 to quickly show green pass lights while still holding the earth test lead !

      Skills, knowledge and desire.

      Most people can’t be bothered to do things properly !


  1. Sounds like you have been very unlucky with pat testing companies Frank, the training they receive varies dramatically, as does their intelligence. Any pat tester worth his salt would only plug items back where they came from and only unplug one at a time to ensure this is done correctly.

    1. Consistently unlucky over a period of twenty years, in fact.

      Having someone specifically motivated to have a look at all the flex in a building from time to time is a good thing but it does lead to a false sense of security; a perception that what is tested is therefore safe.

      A few years back we returned to a lab to find that PAT tests had been in over the weekend. It took the morning to get things they’d unplugged working again. The following night one particular piece of tested equipment went up in flames, in spite of its shiny new green sticker. Coincidence? Possibly, but it illustrates the point about safety.

      Not everyone checking for electrical safety is an idiot, of course. Some are excellent. I do my own testing, for a start. I’m a lot more thorough than most trained PAT testers too – for example I take the back off things and take a look-see in case any motors or coils are showing signs of getting hot. I’m very keen on safety. It all depends on whether the green sticker is the object of the exercise.

      I’m sure your lot are wonderful, of course!

      Incidentally, over time I’m slightly less hacked off about the incident that prompted the original post but I’m sure I’ll be using the anecdote for a while.

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