Thursday, 17 March 2016
Remember your PIN Number? You know, your ‘personal identification number number’? The redundant ‘number’ is echoed in several other popular nomenclatures such as TSB Savings Bank, ATM Machine and LCD Display. The phenomenon is popularly referred to as RAS Syndrome, which stands for Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome or, more playfully , PNS syndrome ("PIN number syndrome syndrome", or "personal identification number number syndrome syndrome") What larks!
Anyway today I am embarked upon teaching PAT Testing, which some of you may be aware is Portable Appliance Testing, er... testing and a more redundant activity you would be hard pushed to find. Actually, scratch that, the public sector is brim full with entire occupations, whole careers, less useful; at least PAT Testing has at its heart a desire to save lives. And we can thank the good old Health & Safety at Work ct, 1974. The fact that we joined ‘the group which called itself’ The Common Market the year before is mere coincidence ( or is it it).
The principle is very simple – electrical equipment, with a plug on the end of it or not, has to be safe. If it gives you a tingle, shocks the life out of you, or burns down your premises, it’s a wrong ‘un. But how to spot these cuckoos in the nest, these electrical fifth columnists? Here’s the thing, it’s mostly common sense. The clues are all there if you care to look. Bare wires sticking out of things, brass terminals you can get your fingers on, damaged flexes and so forth, plus the smoke billowing from the plugtop are all reliable indicators. But hey, a new kettle might cost a tenner so best use the old one to destruction; just don’t touch it until you’ve unplugged it and you’ll be fine.
As with so many bits of legislation, health and safety suffers from the natural law of unintended consequences. What is a perfectly reasonable practice that anybody can carry out – check it out before you use the thing – has been elevated to something only a bona fide qualified professional can carry out and many companies pay for unscrupulous ticket-holders to turn up every year and stick stickers on top of stickers. Check your appliances at work – if there is a sticker on telling you when the next ‘test’ is due, then it’s already out of date. There is no longer any requirement to state this advice and those stickers themselves are some four years out of date.
See, like so many other areas, the codes of practice are made to seem so complex and updated so regularly that only a trained pro could possibly know what to do and how to do it. In reality, folks, the people sticking on those stickers are little more than label-monkeys. If those labels are still dated, by the way, and are recent, then the ‘testers’ are probably using up old stock and are unaware that the code of practice has changed. Or else the printers are still churning out the old stuff and nobody’s informed them. There’s a lot of that about. The blind, leading the uncertain, informed by the barely competent.
Dispose of old stock responsibly
The world of electrical safety is suffused with a rudimentary grasp of the principles and a general ignorance of the regulations, but those driving vans marked with the logos of supposed monitoring bodies have the air of respectability and competence. This is much like the debate over Europe and the EU. Almost none of ‘the facts’ you are being told about our membership is true just because a professional politician tells you it is. And as for that EU symbol you see all over the place? Only 12 stars? It’s well out of date; you need that testing, mate.