This is the million dollar question amongst PAT testers; you’ll hear many different answers dependent on who is asking the question, who is answering it, and whether a customer is being told the answer or another company.
I have heard some companies saying “if you can’t PAT test 500 items in a day then you’re no good to us” when seeking contractors to PAT test for them, and I’ve heard company directors saying “if my staff test more than 200 items in one day, I’d be asking them what they have skipped”
With PAT Testing it is common to have a ‘price per item’ which makes the job almost “peace rate”, this shouldn’t make any difference but with some companies that charge so little this can mean rushing the work and cutting corners to make as much money as possible.
How long is a working day? Generally 8 hours, with breaks.. many clients expect a PAT tester to work much longer than that and sometimes the PAT tester will to get a job done in 1 day rather than 2. There are many times I have worked a 10-12 hour day to save going back to a site on a second day.
But how many items should be tested in a day? That depends on what is being tested and the location… a building site’s 110v tools for example take a lot longer to test than computers in a call centre, or spare leads in an IT storage room.
Let’s keep things simple for this investigation;
We have an 8 hour day, from which we will take a 30 minute lunch and two 15 minute breaks, which leaves us 7 working hours.
We are working 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 with a computer being 4 items (PC hard drive, monitor and 2 detachable leads) and the printer being 2 items (printer unit and detachable lead) so we have 10 printers.
So, that’s 50 computers, which is 200 items, 10 printers which is 20 items, that is 220 items.
To conduct the tests first we need to unplug the leads, then we need to check to ensure the correct fuse is in place, check the cable is in good condition and attaching points are not damaged. A good experienced PAT Tester should be able to check the lead in about 30 seconds (nowadays most IT items have sealed plugs, had we had to open up the plug to check inside this process would take 1-2 minutes).
In addition to the leads the unit has to be checked, then electrical tests be carried out on all items. With connecting and disconnecting, it takes approximately 30 seconds to test each lead, and the same for each appliance. Altogether it should take a couple of minutes to test each appliance.
No matter how good or experienced the PAT Tester is they shouldn’t be able to test more than 20-30 items an hour, in an office environment. This is a good level to work at – 220 items at 30 items per hour is approx 7 hours.
There will be times when more items can be done, and others when less items are done, but the point to consider here is thus:
If we have just worked out that in a 7 hour day (approx) we should be able to test 220 items how can some companies promise their clients that they will test 500 items in the same time?
A national PAT testing company was recruiting for local contractors, I had no intention of working for them but applied anyway to find out more about their operational methods. They rang me to discuss my application and I made a big mistake when I answered their question:
“How many items can you PAT test in a day?”
My answer, “honestly, about 2-250 in an ideal environment”
Their response “that’s not enough for us, you need to be doing minimum 500”
I explained that that wasn’t possible and they said “it doesn’t matter what’s possible, you just do what you have to to complete at least 500 PAT tests per day”
I let them continue, thinking I was still interested and the pay rate came up, they would pay me 20p for every item I tested for them.
If I tested 500 items in a day I’d make £100.00. To someone self employed, that’s not a very good rate of pay. That’s why these guys have to turnover 500 items per day, minimum just to make a living. Remember out of that £100 they have to pay their fuel costs, daily expenses, insurance, equipment, holiday pay, etc. Testing 500 items in a 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 it’s also unlikely they will complete the electrical tests as well, as at this rate they barely have time to stick on a label.
Be very careful who you choose for your PAT testing, don’t be caught out, use someone above board, like DRA Electricals.
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