Planned portable appliance testing at the University of Stirling means its aquaculture facility and other departments can continue their vital research, says David Brown.
08 May 2018 | David Brown
Aquaculture is the underwater sibling to agriculture. It's the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants, algae and other aquatic organisms and plays a pivotal role in the production of commercial food products as well as the conservation of endangered species.
The University of Stirling's Institute of Aquaculture is a world-leading centre for developing sustainable aquaculture and aquatic
food security, informing modern commercial markets and supporting food supply in developing nations.
The centre requires specialist equipment and facilities such as analytical laboratories for genome, molecular and bioinformatics, microbiology and immunology and water quality services.
It is essential that research processes are continuous, so certain facilities and equipment must not be shut down without prior planning.
Continuing portable appliance testing (PAT) at Stirling, for example, works to the institute's schedules to ensure that there are as few interruptions as possible.
The Institute of Aquaculture is just one of several specialist departments within the university campus that requires advanced scheduling.
Only IT equipment at the university is tested on a 48-month cycle. All other items that the estates team deems to pose a greater risk of failure are inspected on a 12-month cycle.
How do engineers operate?
Once that team has determined the frequency of PAT, an engineer must:
-Complete a pre-start checklist to decide what must be tested.
-Request that clients identify any items or areas not to be tested, including equipment or systems that cannot be switched off such as servers and refrigerators.
-Ask the client whether there are any areas with volatile or explosive materials as these cannot be tested using regular PAT equipment and require an engineer with more specialist training and equipment.
-Up to 95 per cent of faults are found during visual inspections.
When looking is not enough
But while users of portable appliances should be encouraged to carry out visual checks and sometimes replace equipment, organisations must determine what electrical equipment should be tested by a 'competent person'. This is defined by the Institution of Engineering and Technology Code of Practice as someone "possessing sufficient knowledge or experience to be capable of ensuring that injury is prevented". This includes understanding the system to be tested and the hazards that may arise, e.g. only skilled technicians should carry out earth bond and insulation tests.
For the record
Keeping records is a vital part of PAT testing. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says keeping records can be a useful management tool for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of a maintenance scheme.
At Stirling, where there may be complex properties with varying frequencies, recording previous tests can also be helpful when planning finance for work to be completed.
When an item is plugged into a 'test machine', which provides a pass or fail result, and is subsequently labelled with a number that can later be referenced. The data is sent in real time to a compliance server, where it is uploaded to OCS's internal systems and the client portal. The estates team can then view, print or store a certificate of completion, a PAT report and all the relevant health & safety data from each test report, giving the client and OCS a detailed and accurate time scale for future scheduling.
Workplace fatalities are steadily falling, but the latest HSE report still ranks faulty electrical appliances among the main causes of accidents at work.
David Brown is service manager North at OCS Compliance Services