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Learn off PAT: a system for safety testing

Fifteen years of collaboration between Out Board and Data Strategy means testing kit for safety has never been easier – or more colourful!

For manufacturers, rental companies and venues, portable appliance testing (PAT) and regulatory certification is a daily certainty, with diverse and varying global safety standards to be met. After all, nobody wants their kit to catch fire or ­– worse – explode when in use, do they?

Technology developer Out Board is better known for the spatial audio wizardry of its TiMax SoundHub systems, but the company has another string to its bow: the PAT-4 and CAB-5 (for cable) Test Processor workstation (pictured top). In tandem with associate Data Strategy’s QC-Check database and automation software, here is a system for testing safety and functionality of electrical appliances and cables, generating job-specific report documentation for each job or project.

The QC-Check client-server database platform streamlines the process of professional electrical appliance and cable testing in bulk, with full electrical-safety test records referenced to an individual asset level. Single or multi-seat QC-Check/PAT4/CAB5 systems can perform 16A/32A/125A electrical safety tests in single and 3-phase rental equipment, as well as continuity and insulation tests on power, signal or data cables from five up to 100 cores.

Dual 32-bit RISC ARM processors in the PAT-4 Test Processors measure resistance, current and voltage in high-speed sequenced test routines individually tailored to each asset group. The optional RCD-T test module performs fully isolated RCD tests with results recorded in QC-Check. QC-Check manages the entire end-to end process of automating, controlling and logging all tests, creating detailed audit trails for all aspects of equipment safety inspection. Data Strategy can also implement real-time integration with clients’ existing rental software packages such as RentalPoint, RTPro and HireTrack, as well as in-house proprietary systems such as PRG’s Team. Out Board director Dave Haydon explains: “Our development and marketing joint venture with Iain Roche (pictured) and Data Strategy Ltd has seen four iterations of our industry-leading enterprise-level PAT and quality test systems over about 15 years, driven by ever-changing HSE initiatives in the UK and internationally.”

The inclusion of ARM processors in the latest PAT-4/CAB-5/RCDT Test Processors, and Data Strategy’s lead on sales, system specification and QC-Check software development, has led this essential resource to really come of age, says Haydon. “It provides the ultimate future-proofed electrical safety test, logging and reporting platform for production rental companies and venues.”

Production Resources Group (PRG) was an early adopter of the technology, leading to 35 networked QC-Check/PAT-4 workstations serving multiple departments at PRG’s Longbridge warehouse in the UK Midlands.

PRG’s operations director Nigel Taylor asserts: “It enables us to feel confident in the shows we’re taking on, whether that’s large-scale opening ceremonies or concert touring you know that these shows which can be going into listed buildings or massive stadia are hitting the regulatory safety obligations of Europe.”

The standardisation of testing and data-logging processes ensures clear data and straightforward tasks for his staff, whereas previously there was, “…manually obtained data consolidated and formalised into one document for presentation to the customer. Items would be missed, wrong barcodes copied… but with the QC-Check the data is 100% accurate, there is absolutely no variation in accuracy.” It’s “impossible” for the operation “not to be accurate”, he claims.

Pearce Hire of Cambridge invested in two units, including second QC-Check/PAT-4 workstation with RCD test function last year, dedicated for its power distribution department. MD Shaun Pearce (pictured) explains: “We’ve used the original system over four years. There was no alternative, to be quite honest, we wanted something that was going to integrate with our stock control and Hire Track. It all works together as part of one big, smooth process that tests and logs all the equipment using the same data.”

Data Strategy’s QC-Check workstations, custom designed and precision engineered by SES Entertainment Service, provide all appliance and cable test connectors employed by a particular rental operation or venue. Also housing the QC-Check computer, barcode scanners and the Out Board PAT-4 and CAB-5 devices, the workstations are designed to be fully integrated into the real-time warehouse job prep procedures, augmenting essential electrical-safety tests with fully documented multi-step functional and inspection tests.

PRG’s Taylor states: “Everyone is testing to the same ethic. It’s a logical process to check there’s no external or physical damage – everyone is at the same standard – which is otherwise impossible to determine without QC-Check.”

For Pearce, the investment is “justifiably worthwhile!”. He adds: “Any form of testing, checking or servicing will help improve the standard of the equipment we send out: we know hand-on-heart that its working 100% safely, which brings its own peace of mind.”

This quality-control data captured for each piece of equipment over time can be used constructively to trace problems. Nigel Taylor uses this regularly to “address skills gap shortages and understand how things go through prep, but also to support compliance issues encountered in the field.” He goes on to claim, “It gives us the support and stability to say, ‘Actually, this item left this building on this day, in this condition’, so it gives us a lot of security, which is very beneficial.”

Pearce concludes, “Having the PAT test gives us the edge over other companies that don’t test in this way. I’d recommend it to anybody. It’s absolutely the way to go for any company that wants to grow.”