Repair Cafes in Essex - Help Sought


I work in technology for Essex County Council. We're exploring the viability of supporting repair cafes in Essex as part of sustainability and the circular economy.

Can anyone offer any guidance and experience around setting these up. Or if you're Essex based, is that something you'd have the time and enthusiasm to get involved ?

I and my colleagues would love to hear from you

Andy - direct message me  or reply below if you have any questions.

  • Hi Andy,

    This morning I've been to a meeting to discuss setting up a Repair Cafe down here in South East Cornwall, and accidentally found myself on the "not a committee" to organise it. As we get into it I'm very happy to swap ideas and experiences.

    The subject of PAT testing came up, not surprisingly, I'll probably end up being the one deciding what our strategy is for that. If any one here has any experiences it would be good to know.



  • I run an occasional repair cafe here in Banbury as part of our Community Action Group.  Of which there are a network across Oxfordshire.
    Our insurance requires 'competent people' to be repairers.  And no we don't want a detailed specific definition of competent.

    So we put anyone who will be doing PAT testing unsupervised through a one day training course.  And then a competent person assesses their repair skills.  If they pass that , then they are good to do PAT testing.

    During the cafe, items are PAT tested on arrival before repairs are attempted (to safeguard the repairers)

    Repaired, if possible.  If not then plugs cut off and item marked do not use.

    A final PAT test once reassembled before handing back to member of the public.

    We also stress that PAT is much more than plugging into the test box and getting an OK light. The visual pre-checks usually find the majority of issues.

  • Hi Jim,

    Really useful, thanks. Do you mark the tested equipment as tested? We had a bit of a debate about this, some weren't happy about it as they saw it as accepting liability.

    We've got 4-5 ex-Navy electronic systems engineers (we're not far from Plymouth) who may never have PAT tested but have very much tested things that can go wrong in more exciting ways than desk lamps! So yes, that was my feeling, that a briefing (and a check list, I like check lists) would be an appropriate approach. I'm also thinking of getting a list of local testers who do it as a their job so that if anyone does want a certificate we can refer them to them - if they want a professional service we'll refer them to a professional.

    Any other general advice on Repair Cafes you can share with myself and Andy?



  • Yes we fix a tested sticker to the items.  We don't offer certificates.

    Here is a guide to running repair cafes

    Example Risk Assessments in here including repair cafes

    Plymouth repair cafe (part of Restart project) may be able to offer local advice (although events seem to have stopped in 2019)

    List of Devon repair cafes seems more current, again part of restart project

  • Thanks Jim, really useful, we're also getting very good support from Cornwall County who are supporting the Cornwall Repair Cafe network we come under. I had a very enjoyable chat with the chap from County, turns out his father is a (clearly very pragmatic and sensible) engineer turned H&S adviser - the chap from County and I ended up chanting in unison "no, there is NO legal requirement to PAT test, no, you do NOT need to be formally trained to PAT test" Smiley He had a particularly interesting conversation with someone who's offering bike maintenance, which was a really good example / test case. The Cornwall County line is that although this may be based on expert experience, it is clearly given on a voluntary basis - it is down to the person bringing in the article to get it professionally checked if they have safety concerns. Cornwall have a standard disclaimer form for anyone bringing in items to sign which we'll be using (although I haven't seen it yet).

  • My only thought of caution when it comes to electrical appliance repairs is that some of the safety features in the original design & assembly can sometimes be very subtle. I vaguely recall a Television magazine article many moons ago that discussed a couple of blobs of glue on the back of the main on/off switch of a certain model of TV (this is back in the days when TVs had a simple mechanical DP switch) - IIRC it turned out that the glue was part of means of providing protection against electric shock - even if the wire came adrift from the switch terminal, the glue prevented it moving and potentially coming into contact with the ELV circuitry (which is then exposed to touch via the aerial & headphone sockets etc). That might be an extreme example, but certainly there are many cases where a cable tie or bit of sleeving or even the precise length or positioning of a wire are critical to maintaining double insulation. And of course errors in such things are never going to show up on a 'portable appliance test'.

    So as some of the techniques used inside appliances can be unknown or easily overlooked by those, for example, more used to say BS 7671 style installation work, some particular care might be needed in deciding on who is 'competent' (electrically).

       - Andy.

  • The equipment must comply with the low voltage directive which in turn will refer to IEC 335 part1 for the creepage and clearances of live conductors to accessible surfaces.   Most plastic equipment is class 2 and 6mm seems to come to mind.

  • Hi Andy

    Have you been in touch with the IET Essex Network volunteers to ask if they can offer assistance? The IET LN Manager for Essex  may be able to help too. Slight smile

  • Hi Andy

    I would advise visiting - this provides a map of all the existing repair cafes, and there are a couple in Essex already Slight smile


  • We've just had our first session of our Repair Cafe in Cornwall - great fun, and I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to volunteer to stop so much being thrown away that might be fixable.

    Main thing we learned was that some vacuum cleaners can be absolute pigs to dismantle!!!


    The other Andy