For most electricians, a time-consuming - and not infrequently - frustrating part of any installation testing, is the recording of test data onto test certificates. An electrical service and testing company is always looking to balance the provision of a fast and efficient high quality test service with offering competitive, value for money pricing. It has been confirmed that many periodic inspection reports, especially for domestic installations, fail to meet a reasonable standard of communicating complete technical accuracy.

Existing installation test and certification systems are often regarded as inefficient and not cost effective as the electrician is expected to carry out dozens of tests to tight timescales to meet productivity targets. Up until now, the process invariably involved taking a blank copy of the certificate for all premises to be tested at the beginning of the working day. As testing is undertaken on site, the electrician then records inspection and test details on the 'dummy' certificate. At the end of the day, the manually recorded results will then be transferred to an 'original' certificate for the customer.

Because of the cumbersome and time consuming nature of the process, other test and recording systems have been introduced. These include the use of PDAs (personal digital assistant - a handheld computer, also known as a palmtop computer), smart phone and portable laptop devices which work by collecting and transferring dat gathered in the field, via an intermediary device, back to a host computer where the master certificates are held.

However, all of these approaches risk human error with the manual recording or transfer of test data - as well as problems that inevitably arise when trying to get one device to 'talk' to another, conducting and recording tests simultaneously and the reduced traceability of results with handwritten records.

To address these issues, smarter installation test solutions have been introduced which streamline traditional 17th Edition test and certification processes. By eliminating the need for a separate test instrument alongside paper, PDA or other recording device, an electronic copy of the test certificate within the tester which doubles as a data logger, the user can easily navigate around the onboard certificate and test values are automatically placed in the correct certificate fields. Once all data has been collected, the onboard software scans the certificate and warns the user if any fields appear to be incomplete or invalid. When inspection is complete, the certificate held inside the the tester can be transferred to PC software for completeion and supply to the customer in printed or electronic format.

The Electrical Safety Council is helping to raise awareness amongst consumers of the importance of periodic inspections and in helping to improve the level of of competence of domestic inspectors. Training to become a competent inspector requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of electrical installation procedures and methods to enable an accurate assessment of the condition of an existing installation.

AbleSkills have always emphasised the critical importance of assessment and testing within their electrical training courses and offer separate complete training units on 2 day Inspection Testing and 2 day PAT testing. There is also the opportunity for practising electricians who have carried out initial verifications on electrical installations and require further training in periodic inspection, testing and reporting to take the 2391 Inspection and Testing Course.