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Performing User Checks

Different to the full visual inspection, user checks refers to the actual user of an electrical appliance giving it a visual inspection to make sure there are no immediately obvious signs of damage.

It is advised that organisations instruct all staff about the importance of user checks when completing staff inductions as the vast majority of faults with electrical appliances are found not as a result of a PAT test, but rather as a result of using common sense and checking over the appliance for something amiss.

If the full induction isn’t possible, a brief training session, document or poster reminders throughout the building are satisfactory to remind people of the importance of regularly carrying out user checks. If you want to go even further, tell your employees that you’re going to make a date for them to perform user checks, and you expect any findings to be reported to the designated person responsible for PAT testing within the company.

Instructing Users on Best Practice

An important part of the user check is ensuring the person doing the check-up actually knows what to look out for.

Follow these simple rules to prevent hazards:

  • We have all seen faulty cable anchorage, with the live, neutral and earth conductors exposed from the bottom of the plugs’ cable anchorage. You want to make sure that employees know that they shouldn’t be stretching the cable of an appliance. This essentially means any appliances used should be placed in such a way that the cable of the appliance isn’t stretched and that no stress is placed on the appliance cable.
  • The importance of keeping cables away from walkways must be highlighted to employees. Cables are not only a significant trip hazard, but an employee tripping over a cable could pull the cable out of an appliance and damage the internal components of the appliance itself.
  • Drinks and appliances don’t mix, and both should be kept away from the other. The importance of not putting your drinks near to things such as your computer is obvious, but it needs to be enforced.
  • The importance of not overloading plug sockets must also be addressed. Packing plug sockets full of too many plugs can have disastrous consequences and is extremely unsafe. Provide surge protectors to your employees and make sure they have enough plug sockets to safely use all of their appliances.

DO NOT use appliances if there are any of the following faults present when checking it over.

  • There are obvious signs of overheating. Usually shown by burn marks on or around the appliance or a general smell of burning, overheating is a serious danger. If it’s a plug socket that’s overheating, make sure it is turned off immediately and not used. The responsible person should be informed about this error immediately.
  • The testing label has expired. This means the appliance must be re-tested immediately and shouldn’t be used until a retest can be done.
  • A cable has exposed wiring, or has been repaired with insulating  tape. Covering a wire over with tape is no replacement for the correct insulation, and it is extremely dangerous to keep using cables that have these forms of problems.
  • The casing is cracked on an appliance. The cracked casing exposes the appliance to the elements. Imagine if you spilled your drink and it spilled inside your computer – the results probably wouldn’t be good.
  • Look out for cracked plugs – cracked plugs are likewise extremely dangerous and run a massive risk of electric shock.
  • Wires are exposed. Wires should always be contained inside insulation.


User checks are extremely important. Make sure your staff are aware of the importance of regularly checking over their equipment and ensure that this policy is regularly carried out.

Written by Barry Atkins