How many items should be PAT tested per day?
This is the million dollar question among them PAT testers; you will hear many different answers depending on who is asking the question, who is answering, and whether the answer is being told to a customer or another company.
I have heard some companies say “if you can’t PAT test 500 items a day, then you’re no good for us” when looking for contractors to do PAT testing for them and I’ve heard company directors say “if my staff tests more than 200 items in one day, I’ll ask them what they missed”
with PAT testing it is common to have ‘price per item” making the job almost a “peaceful percentage”, this shouldn’t make any difference, but with some companies charging so little, it can mean rushing the job and cutting corners to make as much money as possible.
How long is a working day? Usually 8 hours, with breaks…many customers expect the PAT tester to work much longer than that and sometimes the PAT tester will do the job in 1 day, not 2. Many times I have worked 10-12 hour days, for to save returning to a site on the second day.
But how many items should be tested per day? It depends on what is being tested and the location… 110v tools on a construction site for example take much longer to test than computers in a call center or spare cables in an IT warehouse.
Let’s keep things simple for this investigation;
We have an 8-hour work day, from which we will take a 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks, which leaves us with 7 working hours.
We work in an office environment with banks of computers. There are 50 people working in the office, each with a computer. Every 5 computers feed to a printer. So when the computer is 4 items (computer hard disk, monitor and 2 removable wires) and the printer is 2 items (printer unit and removable cable), so we have 10 printers.
So that’s 50 computers, which is 200 items, 10 printers, which is 20 items, which is 220 items.
To carry out the tests, we must first disconnect the cables, then we must check that the correct fuse is in place, check that the cable is in good condition and the attachment points are not damaged. A good experienced PAT tester should be able to check the wire in about 30 seconds (nowadays most IT items have sealed plugs, if we were to open the plug to check inside this process would take 1-2 minutes).
In addition to the cables, the unit should be checked, then electrical tests should be performed on all items. When connected and disconnected, it takes approximately 30 seconds to test each cable and the same for each appliance. In total, testing each unit should take a few minutes.
No matter how good or experienced a PAT tester is, he should not be able to test more than 20-30 items per hour in an office environment. This is a good level to work with – 220 items at 30 items per hour is roughly 7 hours.
There will be times when more items can be made and others when fewer items are made, but the point to keep in mind here is this:
If we have just calculated that in a 7 hour working day (roughly) we should be able to test 220 items, how can some companies promise their customers that they will test 500 items in the same time?
A national PAT testing company was recruiting local contractors, I had no intention of working for them but applied anyway to learn more about their operating methods. They called me to discuss my application and I made a big mistake when I answered their question:
“How many items can you PAT test per day?”
My answer, “honestly, about 2-250 in an ideal environment”
Their response “that’s not enough for us, you need to do at least 500”
I explained that this was not possible and they said “it doesn’t matter what is possible, you just do what you have to do to complete at least 500 PAT tests a day”
I let them continue thinking I was still interested and the pay rate came up, they would pay me 20p for each item I tested for them.
If I tested 500 items a day I would earn £100.00. For someone who is self-employed, that’s not very good pay. That’s why these guys have to spin 500 items a day, minimum, just to make a living. Remember that out of that £100 they have to pay their fuel costs, living expenses, insurance, equipment, holiday payments etc. Testing 500 items per day or 70 items per hour is impossible if done correctly, which is why mistakes are made and why the majority will never complete a full visual inspection and are also unlikely to complete the electrical tests as speed they barely have time to stick a label.
Be very careful who you choose for your PAT testing, don’t get caught out, use someone above board, like DRA Electricals.
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