Appliance Safety Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Can you supply a travel adaptor so I can use my portable computer in Physics?

We do not usually supply or approve removable travel adaptors for a variety of reasons including the risk of loose connections, failure of earth continuity and the need to ensure individual adaptors are suitable for the particular appliance they are being used with (see Links page for more details).  Instead we can probably lend you a UK lead with the appropriate connector for your notebook power supply, just ask an Appliance Tester.

Can you supply a travel adaptor so I can use my phone charger in Physics?

We may be able to fit a securable adaptor to your European charger though this does depend on the particular charger, ask an Appliance Tester who may well be able to help.  Unfortunately US plug top power supplies are not suitable for normal use in the UK as the pins do not have sufficient insulation to prevent small fingers touching them when they are inserted into an adaptor.  The criteria we apply is that laid down for the supply of domestic electrical appliances in the Plugs and Sockets Regulations.

Does everything really have to be checked, even my phone charger?

Physics H&S policy requires that, with the exception of some new IT equipment sourced by the department from reliable suppliers, all plug-in appliances are inspected, there is good reason for this.  Appliance Testers are not just looking for new faults but also checking for such things as in-house equipment built to poor standards, poor quality 'grey imports' and unsuitable travel adaptors.  Research by Trading Standards and the Electrical Safety Council has found many examples of potentially dangerous adaptors and power supplies.

Even something as apparently harmless as a phone charger can become dangerous if construction standards are not adhered to.  Badly assembled plastic cases can break exposing live parts; inadequate internal insulation can break down resulting in dangerous voltages at the output connector; there is a risk of overheating and fire, particularly if the manufacturer has failed to fit an internal fuse.  For further information have a look at the Links page.

My appliance has 'failed' and been left it in my office, what do I do with it?

Appliance Testers will usually label and secure a failed appliance but can only dispose of it if it is Physics Department property which is not always clear.  Broken appliances must not be thrown in the bin as they count as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and they must be disposed of properly.  If you contact an Appliance Tester he can dispose of your appliance through the approved route.

If your appliance is valuable and you want it repaired then contact Central Electronics who may be able to repair it for you and can give a quote if requested.  If you repair it yourself then you must get the appliance approved and signed-off as safe by an Electrical Supervisor before it can be retested and put back into use, Central Electronics can also arrange this, it is best to consult before you start work as the finished job will need to be of a high standard.

My fridge freezer is not very 'portable' - why does it need PAT testing?

The term Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is not accurate, it dates from the early days of appliance testing and while it is still in common use, even by PAT testing personnel, it is not used in the appliance testing Code of Practice as it can be misleading.  The different classes of electrical appliance are defined in the Code of Practice as: hand-held, portable, moveable, stationary and fixed.  They all need safety checks.  With the exception of some new IT equipment sourced by the department from reliable suppliers any appliance supplied via a plug and socket must be safety tested before use in the Physics Department.

Will the safety tests damage my appliance?

The tests that are conducted are much the same as those which the appliance is required to meet by the relevant BS EN construction standard and the appliance should have already been subjected to these tests, and much harsher ones, before it left the factory.  It is extremely unlikely that properly conducted tests will cause damage to a healthy appliance.  Physics Appliance Testers are trained and experienced and hold the relevant City & Guilds qualification.

Do you check the appliance for non-electrical safety problems?

Physics Appliance Testers are only qualified to check for mains power related electrical problems.  You still need to ensure any other relevant safety checks for hazards such as high voltage and laser are done and to ensure the user is competent to operate the appliance or tool and that any necessary risk assessments are in place.  If in any doubt consult the Physics Safety Office.

Can I be sure my appliance will remain safe until the next check is due?

Formal safety inspection and test can only do so much, the appliance may be safe on the day of test but get damaged and become dangerous the next day.  User checks are also required to ensure appliance safety.  In particular the case, flex and plug should not be visibly worn or damaged, if a problem is detected then the appliance must not be used and an Appliance Tester or Electrical Supervisor should be asked to check it out.  Vulnerable appliances such as hand tools and cleaners should be checked by the user every time they are used.