All things PAT Testing
The all-new 5th Edition of the IET Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment (COPITSEE) is due to be published in October 2020
The Code was first published in 1994. When the Electricity at Work Regulations (EWR) came into force in 1989, the subject of electrical safety management was debated and in particular, how businesses could comply with the requirements of the Regulations in the workplace and manage on-going electrical safety
The IEE formed a working group to look at the issue, and subsequently used their findings as a basis for the 1st Edition of COPISITEE, as a means of verifying the ongoing electrical safety of appliances. Thus, ‘portable appliance testing’ (PAT) was born….
Appliance or equipment?
While the industry is familiar with portable appliance testing, generally the approach in most workplaces is simply to check those things fitted with a plug that are – to varying degrees – ‘portable’. An appliance, however, is actually defined in standards as “apparatus intended for household or similar use”, which of course excludes many types of electrical equipment found in the workplace. It’s also noteworthy that generally, the EWR does not apply at home in a domestic setting, with a few limited exceptions. It can be seen that use of the word ‘appliance’ is not representative of what the COPISITEE seeks to embrace, namely ‘electrical equipment’ that is ‘in-service’, i.e. used at work. This can also include items such as washing machines and vacuums
The forthcoming 5th Edition of the Code places a much greater emphasis on the original intent of managing electrical equipment in the workplace that is not covered under other maintenance regimes, such as the electrical installation itself. The equipment may not be fitted with a flex and plug and could be wired into the installation, such as an air-conditioning unit or a security access control system.
The 5th Edition of the COPISITEE, therefore, makes no mention of the words ‘portable’ and ‘appliance’, other than in the explanatory notes in the preface. In fact, another allied change is the removal of the terms ‘stationary’, ‘portable’, ‘fixed’ and ‘moveable’, as the key focus is on the verification of equipment for safety in continued use. The equipment’s ability to move or be relocated (or not, as the case may be) doesn’t affect the nature of the testing and inspection required, although it might have a bearing on the frequency of the maintenance activity.
The changes in brief
The revision also reflects modern equipment and practices, with commentary on second-hand and hired equipment, as well as on the perennial issue of equipment that may be fake or sourced from suppliers where its provenance may be in doubt.
The classifications for safety are now described as ‘energy source classes’, which is subtly different to the previous methods of description. While to the end-user the changes may be of little consequence in practice, it is important that those performing the inspection and testing of electrical equipment understand the new classifications. Confusingly, SELV is still a valid method of protection for electric shock when used in an electrical installation (i.e. one complying with BS 7671 Requirements for Electrical Installations), but it is no longer a valid method for an item of equipment.
The conducted tests are another area of change, with the inclusion of a flowchart to aid those performing the inspection and testing to select appropriate tests according to the equipment. Again, the focus has been on the verification of equipment for electrical safety for continued use, and this has led to the list of required tests being revised. For example, some items of Class II equipment may no longer require testing, with a visual inspection being satisfactory on its own.
A significant change (perhaps the most significant, depending on your view!) is a complete review of the frequency of testing, currently exampled in Table 7.1 of the 4th Edition. This table disappears in the 5th Edition, although if you want to know what it has been replaced by, you’ll have to wait for the publication of the 5th Edition of the IET Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment itself.