The Importance of PAT Testing In Construction. Safety is rightfully a paramount concern in construction sites, yet PAT testing gets frequently overlooked. This article describes why PAT testing should be an essential part of a construction site’s safety regime.
Construction sites are amongst the most dangerous of workplaces. Amongst the hazards workers face are working at heights, falling objects, asbestos and other harmful substances, and collapses.
Faulty electrical equipment is also a frequent cause of accidents and injuries, yet the safety of equipment often gets unaccounted for when a safety policy gets drawn up.
To counter this, frequent PAT testing of electrical appliances should be an integral part of all construction site safety plans.
Is PAT testing a legal requirement on construction sites?
Currently, there is no obligation to have electrical equipment PAT tested on construction sites. This lack of legislation is one reason why this often gets overlooked when considering the safety of a construction site.
However, there is a legal requirement for employers to ensure that all electrical equipment used on building sites is fit for purpose, in good condition, and safe to use.
One way to ensure that this is the case is to have a regular PAT testing schedule. This ensures that all appliances, power tools, and other electrical equipment pose no risk to workers, premises, and the construction site.
What are the benefits of PAT testing on construction sites?
PAT testing on construction sites ought to be included in any safety doctrine for construction sites.
In fact, the benefits of carrying out regular PAT testing should automatically elevate PAT testing to the same level as the compulsory wearing of hard hats.
Amongst the benefits of regular PAT testing are:
The demands of a construction site take their toll on equipment. Electrical equipment is dangerous at the best of times, but this gets heightened in the often damp conditions and in an environment where equipment is prone to damage.
The best way to ensure the protection of employees from electrical hazards is by the regular testing of equipment.
PAT testing can save money
Valuable time and money loss due to equipment failure can be reduced by the early identification of faults before the equipment has completely failed. This allows time to replace and repair the equipment without missing critical deadlines.
There is a legal obligation to ensure that all electrical equipment on site is safe for use. The audit trail that PAT testing provides can, in the worst-case scenario, prove that they made every effort to comply with this requirement.
This can protect the construction company from legal issues, including potential litigation.
Reduced fire risk
One of the biggest causes of fire in the construction industry is faulty electrical equipment. By having your electrical equipment fully tested, you are both reducing the risk of fire and also reducing the possibilities of insurance problems by having a PAT testing record, should the worst happen.
What does PAT testing involve?
PAT testing is a series of tests designed to prove the safety, or otherwise, of portable electrical appliances.
Although the “Portable” in the title is somewhat of a misnomer, as PAT testing can include fixed items like bandsaws and items as large as vending machines and bigger.
The test itself is a “two-tier” test:
1. Visual Test – Just as it sounds, this involves a visual inspection of the equipment. Specifically, this means looking for bare wires, compromised insulation, excessive physical damage to the equipment, and the power lead and plug.
2. PAT Tester – This is a specialized tester that tests for issues that the visual test doesn’t cover.
During the testing procedure, the tester will check for the following problems:
- Insulation Resistance
- Lead Polarity
- Earth Continuity
Lower power devices require a reduced test. This test is called a PAT insulation test, and as the name suggests, it ensures that the appliance gets properly insulated.
After each device gets tested, they usually apply a sticker to a prominent position. This will show whether the device has passed or failed the test. Ideally, the test results should all get recorded in a PAT test log.
How frequently should PAT tests be performed on a construction site?
For most business types, a period of 6 months to a year between PAT tests is adequate. However, for construction sites, the recommended period differs from this.
Some of the portable electronic items, including canteen and office equipment (kettles, printers, computers, etc.) are suitable for an annual test. The recommendation for equipment like 110v appliances and power tools is every three months.
The rigors of a construction site mean that equipment is subject to a heavy workload under harsh conditions, and let’s face it, construction workers are not known for their gentle touch. This is why in these cases, a 3-month inspection regime gets recommended.
Visual examinations should be carried out on an ongoing basis, by both the user and, more formally, by a competent and trained nominated person.
What types of equipment need to be tested?
A construction site has a wide array of electrical equipment, and most of it should be subjected to regular PAT testing. It isn’t just the power tools and other electrical equipment used in the actual building work, but everything electrical.
- Construction site – Power tools, extension cables, lighting systems, 110v equipment, welders, radios, battery chargers, power cables
- Peripheral equipment – Kettles, printers, photocopiers, IT equipment, microwaves, fridges, office equipment
The equipment has three classes. Most of the equipment used on a construction site and requiring testing will be Class 1 or Class 2.
Class 1 – Class 1 appliances protect the user by using an earth connection and basic insulation. All class 1 devices get tested for insulation resistance, lead polarity, and earth continuity. A Class 1 device will always have a three-core cable and an earth pin.
Class 2 – These sometimes receive the name of double insulated appliances, as they protect the user by using a minimum of two layers of insulation. These do not require an earth connection, and as such, they only get tested for insulation resistance and lead polarity.
Class 3 – These are all low-voltage and safer appliances. Class 3 items would include mobile phone and laptop chargers, cameras, and torches.
As noted earlier, the main focus for PAT testing on construction sites will fall into either Class 1 or Class 2. One good way to tell which calls an appliance falls into is by their material. Metal appliances are always Class 1, and plastic appliances are almost certainly Class 2.
Although there is no legal obligation to perform regular PAT testing on construction sites, the process of regular PAT tests fulfills part of the legal requirement to ensure the safety of your workforce.
PAT testing may sound like an inconvenience, but nothing could be further from the truth. We can quickly perform PAT testing with a minimum of fuss, doesn’t cost the earth, and provide peace of mind from knowing that the workforce and construction site are all safer.
Construction sites are always striving to improve safety, and one easy way to take another step towards a safer workplace is by implementing regular Portable Appliance Testing.