Repair Café PAT Tester (safety tester)

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Hi everyone!
I want to get hold of a PAT Tester for regular use at future local repair cafés - anyone any suggestions and\or know of a reliable source for second-hand ones?
Thanks!

I recall in the past a suggestion of checking with a local charity shop (ones that accept electricals/electronics e.g. British Heart Foundation) and seeing if they are happy to lend it out to you for the days you have repair cafes.

Worth a shot

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Will do, thanks Neil :slight_smile:

You might want to look at recalibration requirements too:
most suppliers insist on yearly recalibration, so it’s not enough just to buy a tester if you want to be able to guarantee its results …

First Stop Safety who supplied Hackney Fixers’ tester used to occasionally have second hand units for sale.

Thanks Dave, secondhand looks good!

I see this from the First Safety FAQ:

I have heard I need some electrical experience to PAT test and it is quite complicated, is that true?
No, you do not need any electrical experience at all. PAT testing is not complicated as the majority of PAT testing is common sense and very straight forward.

Music to my ears! Could I get a PAT Tester I could self-recalibrate do you think?

This one below is the cheapest I can find at £34 (bring your own multimeter). Doesn’t need recalibration:

ae235

What can’t it do that’s needed?

According to this random googled article, there are 700 deaths from toasters worldwide per year.

If you make a whole range of tests on a consumer device, that has got be safer than not making them. However, the likelihood of a device harming someone is not markedly reduced I suppose, because some of the things that could harm are not measured and cannot be guarded against. Don’t suppose there are any stats for deaths from repaired toasters, so no way to tell if testing them affects the danger in real life?

Testing might reduce the odds of future harm from, say, 70 million to 1 to 60m but the chances that a device will do harm still stay steady at 60 million to 1 because the fault that kills has nothing to do with what state the device was in when tested. Especially if the device is not particularly well-designed which is really hard to establish. So testing should not be seen as reducing future harm all that much, should it?

This looks remarkably good, in fact too good to be true. From what I can make out, whilst it doesn’t need calibrating, it needs a calibrated 17th Edition electrical tester, not just a common or garden multimeter!

Since it normally has light use, I’ve taken the view that calibration every 24 months is adequate for our Computer Friendly PAT tester. For an electrician, throwing it in the back of his van every day and dropping it on the floor from time to time, annual calibration would be more justified.

My advice would be get a First Stop BattPAT from eBay and get it calibrated straight away. I’ve used Test4Less - very efficient, with courrier both ways, costs around £50.

Regarding deaths from toasters, my guess is that few of them are the result of electrical faults, but rather from people sticking knives in to release a stuck slice of toast. For that reason, I always keep my residual current circuit breaker on the toaster when I’m not using it with garden power tools. That way I always know where to find it!

Thanks Philip, how depressing :slight_smile:

I see the makers claim that the KewTech adapter ‘Enables the essential tests according to
the IET Code of Practice’ but didn’t realise they meant 'provided it’s used with a standards-compliant multimeter (with ‘universal’ 4mm probes), thanks for pointing that out!

I see that the latest (18th) standards-conforming multimeters can easily cost £1,000.

Add training costs of at least £270 per person

Add calibration at, as you helpfully write is ~£50 per year

All these costs are barriers to entry for Repair Cafés etc aren’t they?

As PAT testing kits for Charity Shops are on sale, what concerns me is professional equipment in the hands of amateurs. What assurance does someone bringing a repair in have that the PAT test was meaningful?

I suppose everything we’re likely to handle that has no earth (that is, most things), cannot be said to be ‘safe’ when tested by the non-qualified people who volunteer in Repair Cafés. I’m sure some cafés are lucky enough to attract qualified electricians as volunteers, but not that many I guess.

Those things with an earth need these specialised testers with calibration, operated generally by people (e.g. charity shop workers) who’ve been on straightforward training courses that have no professional qualifications attached I guess.

Even then I don’t think it reduces the potential harm significantly. If a device is capable of electrocuting you it could do so at any time. PAT Testing doesn’t affect the odds significantly I suppose.

The contemporary spirit I think is one of empowerment - anyone can have a go at fixing anything, especially after finding step-by-step videos on how. There are lots and lots of PAT Testing videos explaining how simple it all is.

Were people to simply do tests with an ordinary inexpensive multimeter, that would be more or less equally likely to guard against future harm I guess - so that’s what most people will probably do as there simply aren’t the £1,000s available for the ‘trained amateur’ route.

You can take an online PAT testing course for free, and then after a simple multiple choice quiz (impossible to fail if you paid any attention at all) pay around £30 for a certificate. A second hand BattPAT can be had for around £100 (ours came recently calibrated, with calibration certificate). So you should certainly be able to set yourself up for under £200, which might well be covered by donations from 2 or 3 reasonably successful events. That route will go a long way to reassure insurers and any venues looking for a risk assessment. And should anyone kill themselves with a toaster you atempted to fix you could argue with confidence that you took all reasonable measures. A PAT test isn’t a guarantee, any more than an MOT is a guarantee that your engine won’t fall out 100 yards down the road!

If on the other hand you did a DIY job with a multimeter (which is unlikely to have been recently calibrated) in the hands of someone who has no demonstrable training, then you’d be on shaky grounds from the point of view of liability. Apart from the fact that no cheap multimeter would be capable of measuring an earth continuity of a fraction of an ohm, nor to stress the insulation at several hundred volts.

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In terms of training and requirements for calibration frequency you need to comply with your repair cafe’s liability insurance to confirm what’s acceptable. Not actively complying and just doing something random could be a recipe for disaster. IME this needn’t be expensive but your specifics will depend on the specific requirements of your insurer.

Thanks Philip! Found this free online PAT Testing course and this official government guidance on PAT Testing from the Health and Safety Executive helpful.
This PAT Calibrator (which hopefully does not itself need calibrating…) is less than £200 - wonder if a group buy would make sense…

Thanks Ian - I’ve been looking at insurance and most people seem to have chosen a standard insurance package that makes no mention of testing equipment, let alone calibration frequency.
Guess Philip’s decision (above) to calibrate every two years makes sense?

From what little I know of metrology, I think even a PAT Test calibrator would need calibrating! Calibration labs need their kit calibrated (perhaps less frequently since it’s only used in controlled lab conditions) by a bigger calibration lab, or if they’re big enough by a Nation Standards Lab such as NPL.

Our PAT tester is showing signs of needing a new battery, so I was thinking a few weeks back of building my own simple go/no go PAT test tester with 5% resistors. Opening our PAT tester to change the battery would invalidate the calibration certificate, even though, with resonable care there’s no reason why it should actually put the calibration out. Such a go/no go tester would verify that it was still functional and with any error much less than could make a life or death difference. But I didn’t get around to it as I think the battery will just about hold out until the next biennial calibration date, and worst case, it’ll run off the charger. As with one or two other projects, I find that identifying a suitable box is harder than designing what to put in it! (It would need to be absolutely safe if some idiot pluged it into the mains instead of into a PAT tester!)

Really encouraging, thanks Philip! The electronics does seem straightforward - anything that makes it cheaper to test helps everyone.
There seem to be two tests
one is:
‘how close to zero is the resistance between any exposed metal parts and earth’?
and the other is:
‘if 500v or so is injected into both live and neutral, any voltage at all appears on exposed parts’?

I’m not sure how useful either are.

Consumer electronics seems mostly made in China with designs that flout many of the ‘rules’ of good design IMO. Mains-carrying PCB tracks too close together and underrated connection methods (notably ‘flimsy’ cabling) and nothing ever earthed and rarely fused internally all make me wince but the consumers don’t seem to give a stuff.

Hi everybody, I’ve just jumped into add this conversations to #community-repair with a #uk tag on it.

I tend to agree with all of the other advice given, thanks @philip @Dave @Ian_Barnard for your helpful contributions.

It’s important to recognise the overwhelming number of faults are detected by a proper visual inspection prior to actually using the PAT tester. Adding here that we do PAT testing for our own peace of mind, and ensuring our own process is safe. (I do feel that regular calibration is an important element of this. And while it’s not cheap, I think we need to be funding this through contributions of participants and local authorities.)

We do not offer PAT testing as a service. That is, the owner/participant is not offered a sticker and we do not maintain permanent record of the test. Firstly, we feel that would be more than we can handle at events, and secondly, it would also create more of the feeling of a transaction/service and would potentially heighten our liability.

We are very strong about these events not being a free service, but an educational event where ultimately the participant retains responsibility for their own device. Our disclaimers on every table and on our website reinforce this. Some groups have people sign a form acknowledging this.

I would also point everybody to our Wiki page - and ask if based on this conversation, it’s due any updates?

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That’s helpful. I think that it might be worth noting in the wiki that we shouldn’t be handing out PAT test stickers (if that’s what we’re considering best practice for a Restart event).

I’m happy to make some edits to the wiki page to incorporate some of these points if you like.

Thanks @Adam! I think @Ian_Barnard and maybe others have differing opinions on recording tests and stickers.

It’s definitely our best guidance for those getting started, especially in high-attendance events. Perhaps we can add this as a starting point, and something for your group to consider carefully.

But in a way, every case is a case, and we’re definitely not qualified to give advice on liability - only your local pro-bono lawyer can do that :wink:

Ah yes. When we started I enthusiastically put stickers on everything we tested, but after discussion with Janet I now only put stickers on mainsy things we use in events - i.e. extension leads - so I know to retest a year later. We record on the repair sheet that PAT testing was done, and the result. Testing is always done on the item coming in (which may also be the point where 13A plugs without plastic pins for L/N are replaced with modern ones, and fuse checked/changed to appropriate current limit for the item) and if fixed then on exit it’s tested again if it was in any way disassmbled or mains parts modified.

The vast majority of failures are during the physical check part of the PAT test - if that fails there’s no way I’m plugging it into mains without the physical problem being fixed first. IIRC I’ve only had one electrical failure for leakage current (i.e. detected by the PAT tester after passing the physical check) which was on a very old projector which looked like the fan motor had coils made from cotton-covered copper wire. Leaky like you wouldn’t believe.

I bought the PAT tester myself (IIRC it was £100 on ebay, a Kewtech KT71) for the repair cafe to use on the basis that donations cover the £50-ish cost of annual calibration. Donations have also covered the £30/person PAT test training, possible because our insurers were happy with online training.

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Wow, great info Ian, thanks!
Can you please say how much you pay for which insurance policy with whom?

We are lucky to get liability insurance through in the end Devon CC, via Community Action Groups (CAG) Devon - this is used for all Devon’s Repair Cafes, and happily doesn’t come to us a cost. I’m sure there’s at least one topic on here about getting liability insurance. It’s one reason for working with a sustainibility or other charitable group because they may already have cover you can benefit from by joining/partnering with them?

See here Sign our letter to get a fairer deal from insurers - #5 by Luc_Deriez

Might be worth contacting @Repair_Cafe_Wales to see what happened from their letter?

We have more detailed info on risk and insurance here @chris_setz:

Chris, if you are in London, which I believe you are, we offer London groups that we have a handshake agreement with cover under our insurance. Please message or email us.

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