Why Portable Appliance Testing is important, you Idiots
Portable Appliance Testing (commonly known as PAT testing) is often spoken of with disdain in schools, cast aside as bureaucratic red-tape and disregarded along with countless other health & safety provisions. Teachers are particularly given to ignore it when they decide to bring in their own equipment from home, happily hooking it up to the mains without caring that it hasn’t been safety tested, because “they need it”, that all-powerful of reasons that many believe allows them to bypass any and all rules & laws (notably including copyright and data protection).
But I digress! Here’s just one good reason why PAT testing is actually important:
Last time these power supplies (all from old model RM Classboards) were checked, they passed. Now, time has rendered the plastic so brittle that all I had to do was grasp them and they literally fell apart in my hands. If they were plugged into a live socket, touching the now exposed innards would most likely give you a 230V electric shock.
“Ah, but AT,” I hear you protest, “I am not such a dumbass that I wouldn’t notice something in such poor condition. I would never allow such shoddiness is MY classroom!” Well, none of the class teachers in which these power supplies resided had noticed, despite them being in prominent positions in easy reach of pupils. The main reason is that most of them looked fine, until you either looked closely or handled them.
What’s more, experience has taught me that even an obvious fault cannot preclude a potentially fatal incident. Remember just now when I said that touching the insides would likely give you a 230V shock? I know that because two years ago, a teacher did just that with a similarly-damaged speaker PSU, despite admitting afterwards that she could clearly see that the live parts were exposed. Luckily she was not seriously injured, but the effects could have been more severe for a small child.
Hopefully this illustrates that PAT testing is not simply an exercise in box ticking. Failure to do it, and re-do it regularly, can put both staff and pupils at serious risk of harm. If it’s you that’s responsible for it, get it done. If it’s someone else, savagely beat them until they do it.
(By the way, if you’re looking for an alternative to the outrageously overpriced replacement RM Classboard power supplies, I’ve been using these, which at the time of writing, were less than 1/5 of the price. Which is nice, given that I need to replace more than half of mine this summer.)