Archive for the ‘Discussion Topics’ Category

Should your entertainment chain hoists be PAT tested ?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

A request from one of our customers sparked a debate in the office, so here are the thoughts of our Tony Dickson, for further discussion:

“Well, this is a very interesting question that has been asked, and in fact there is not a simple yes or no answer and there is no formal written indications for this subject.

As far as I am aware there are no current laws, regulations or legislation that requires you to have any piece of equipment PAT tested, whether that be your laptop, your kettle or your chain hoist, as for claims that PAT testing is required by law, this is simply not true. There are recommendations for frequency of PAT testing and the intervals vary depending upon usage, location and type of equipment between 3 monthly to every 48 months but again not a legal requirement.

There are other regulations to consider when looking at electrical safety of a machine though, which are but not limited to Health and safety at Work Act, The Electricity at Work Regulations,  The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, to name the main contenders. All of which impose a duty of care upon employers to protect their employees and members of the public that come into contact with appliances, and so if your staff, persons that are using your equipment (on hire) or members of the public are injured through badly maintained electrical equipment, then you will be held responsible; by you I mean the owner of the piece of equipment, whether the owner knows or even understands that the equipment was unsafe – ignorance of the law is no defence – the owner may obviously seek other defence in that he has hired a competent person to complete this for him ……..

PAT testing itself is a very grey area even for the professional PAT tester, the term PAT testing actually means “Portable Appliance Testing” and was originally intended for single phase equipment fitted with a 13A fused plug, indeed most PAT testing equipment is supplied with just this test cable and the PAT tester has to “adapt” the test for other single phase equipment fitted with other types of plugs, 110V single phase and of course for 3 phase equipment.

“Portable Equipment” is defined as an appliance of less than 18kg in mass that is intended to be moved whilst in operation or an appliance which can be easily be moved whilst in operation or an appliance which can easily be moved from one place to another. Portable equipment is designed to be carried or moved from place to place between periods of use and the power connection will be made by a “flexible cord” which will terminate in a plug for connection to the fixed power supply.

Whilst a chain hoist is used in different locations there are few that could be described as portable within this definition.

So, let’s look at what is actually done when completing a PAT test on Class 1 equipment – Class 1 equipment is any appliance that requires their chassis to be earth bonded (most chain hoists you would have thought);

Before any actual electrical testing is completed some physical checks need to be performed:

  • Inspection of the plug. Normally a 13A 3 pin, single phase plug, requiring the inspector to remove the plug top and inspect the wiring, connections, fuse rating and cord grip, the inspector would then look for signs of physical damage, signs of overheating like burn marks or discolouration on the pins or terminals. I would suggest that this should be completed during a normal LOLER or PUWER inspection of any piece of electrical lifting equipment to whatever type of connector is fitted.
  • The cable should now be checked for signs of damage (insulation cut or ripped), correct anchorage (via a clamp in the plug and via a cable entry gland to the hoist which should also be provided with a clamping arrangement) and suitability of the cable itself (is it the correct cross sectional area, is it the correct type of cable). I would suggest that this should be completed during a normal LOLER or PUWER inspection of any piece of electrical lifting equipment.
  • The appliance itself would then be checked for any signs of physical damage or overheating (burn marks or discoloration). I would suggest that this should be completed during a normal LOLER or PUWER inspection of any piece of electrical lifting equipment.

Then a series of In-service tests would be performed. Typically they would be as follows:

  • Earth Continuity, a definite requirement on Class 1 equipment. I would suggest that this should be completed during a normal LOLER or PUWER inspection of any piece of electrical lifting equipment, and even go so far as to say that this is a basic protective instinct for any engineer prior to connection of any unfamiliar electrical device.
  • Insulation resistance test. Not necessarily completed during a normal LOLER inspection of any piece of electrical lifting. Insulation testing tests the integrity of the insulation around and between the copper conductors in a cable and does require specialist equipment.
  • Polarity testing on the appliance chord would be carried out on single phase equipment (is Live the Live core, is Neutral the Neutral core, is Earth the Earth core?) and similar polarity tests for 3 phase cable in that the tester would check all three live cables are indeed the three phase cores in the lead. I would suggest that this should be completed during a normal LOLER or PUWER inspection of any piece of electrical lifting equipment again prior to connecting the equipment to a supply.
  • An appliance function test will be completed to ensure that the piece of equipment is operating and performing properly. I would suggest that this should be completed during a normal LOLER or PUWER inspection of any piece of electrical lifting equipment as this is a basic fundamental check.

In summary, employers are required to provide safe equipment, they are required to ensure that equipment is and remains safe for use, they are not required to PAT test. Chain hoists are portable when used in a touring application but can they really be considered to be a “portable appliance” in the true meaning of this test? – the original test was actually meant to protect workers using single phase equipment such as kettles, toasters drilling machines, vacuum cleaners, and the like that have 13A fused plugs on them not really for bulky 3 phase equipment –  Can you actually buy a three phase PAT tester ?

Apart from the insulation test, if a competent person completes the LOLER / PUWER thorough examination properly is there any additional benefit to PAT testing ?

The question is – would this argument stand up in a court of law in that would you, as the owner, user and tester of the equipment be considered to have done everything that is reasonably practical to ensure the safety of yourself and others ?

REMEMBER: Safety Above All