One of the most important parts of a PAT test is the Visual Inspection, it is in this section of the process that we find around 90% of obvious faults with electrical appliances.
PAT Test Visual Inspection
When we visit a client for the first time there are far too many occasions where we find a visual inspection has not been completed. How do we know this? Our Pet Hate – the cardboard wiring diagram which has been left in-situ even though a PAT Test has been completed, clearly no visual inspection!
So what is the visual inspection aspect of a PAT Test and how do we go about performing it? It’s a simple process, first we check the plug, after all they are just as important as the electrical appliance. Now, if a plug is damaged or faulty and being held together with tape and/or elastic bands, as we found just recently, it runs the risk of the user receiving an electrical shock or a plug in this condition could also cause a fire. If this is the case the appliance should not be used, but all too often they are.
Some of the common plug faults we find are so obvious we are surprised people have not been hurt:
- Plugs which are showing signs of burning or damage.
- Some older plugs do not have insulated pins, which although not illegal to have them in use, it is recommended that any plug without insulation on the live and neutral pins are removed from service, or as we do replace the plug.
- Incorrect fuse sizes for the appliance
- We often find plugs which have been incorrectly wired. It is very important to make sure the live, neutral and earth cables are connected to the correct terminals and that the terminals are tight and secure.
- Plugs with a bent pin should never be used as they won’t fit correctly into plug sockets and the results could be extremely dangerous, so does forcing 2-pin American plug into a UK socket which is something that we find on a regular basis.
Next, we inspect the cable just by looking along the length of the cable or even running your hands along it to feel for any obvious signs of damage, the most common being cuts in the outer cover and signs of fraying, both problems are potential hazards.
Other signs of damage include the internal copper wiring of the cable being exposed and of course any signs of a cover up, a cable with tape is usually hiding a problem or a temporary repair.
It is also very common to find cables being trailed across walkways which of course is a trip hazard and a rubber cable tidy strip should be in place to cover the loose cable.
As part of the visual inspection we also check over the appliance for obvious signs of damage, looking for cracks, corrosion and signs of overheating especially with fan heaters. You’d be amazed how many times I have seen coats hanging against a heater to dry them out, creating a fire hazard, I have even seen coat being hung on the back of fridge as it is warm, but in this instance the copper pipe hanger had been damaged and the fridge gas was escaping.
Even though this isn’t really part of PAT testing, it is good customer service so we do check the socket outlet. It’s no good plugging an appliance into a socket that is cracked and damaged as this could cause electrical shocks or fires. The switch should work and the socket should be secure and not loose, you never know when you need to turn off an appliance in an emergency. Another point to check is are there too many appliances plugged into the sockets which in turn can overloaded sockets causing them to overheat, burn and even ‘smell funny’ as I was told by a member of staff on a client’s premises a few years ago.
Finally as part of the visual inspection we look at the environment that the appliance is being used in. A little bit of common sense is always good to use, would you really use an extension lead and put the plug and socket in a puddle of water??
Until next time – stay safe