The truth about PAT testing

By February 10, 2020News
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Do you know the truth about PAT testing? Portable Appliance Testing, or PAT testing as we like to call it.
But what exactly is it? Is it a legal requirement? How often should you do it? No doubt you’ve asked yourself at least one of these questions at some point. We thought we’d expose the myths and reveal the truth about PAT testing.

What is portable appliance testing?
It’s probably best to start with exactly what PAT testing is, to clear up any confusion. The best definition comes by way of the Health & Safety Executive. In their words, which can be found on their website, “Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use.”
It goes on to say that in most cases, electrical safety defects can be found by a visual examination. However, some other types of defects you can only find by testing. In all cases, visual examination is an essential part of the process. That’s because some electrical safety defects cannot be detected by testing alone.

The HSE states a relatively brief user check can be a useful part of any electrical maintenance regime.
They confirm businesses can carry out checks after simple training, with the aid of a brief checklist.
They also say it’s important you consider the type of equipment used and the environment it’s used in. In some cases, a more formal visual inspection and testing by a competent person may be required at regular intervals.

Portable appliance testing is compulsory
No, it’s not. There is certainly no strict legal requirement for PAT testing. The HSE is a good reference point here, again. From a legal standpoint, the HSE states that, “the law simply requires an employer to ensure their electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger. It does not say how this should be done or how often.”
We always recommend you take a risk-based approach, considering the type of electrical equipment and what it is used for. PAT testing works best as part of an overall solution to your company’s health and safety procedures. Even though PAT testing is not required by law, you should consider the consequence of any faults caused by defective electrical equipment.

Electrical appliances should be PAT tested each year
No, that’s not the case. There are no clear-cut timescales as to how often electrical appliances should be tested. The frequency of inspection and testing is very much dependent on the type of equipment and the environment they’re used in. If in doubt, it’s best to have a PAT testing professional visit your site and advise timescales for testing. This is something we can help with and our initial evaluation service is free of charge.

All electrical appliances need testing, including new items
No, not everything needs testing. If you have battery operated items or items that run on extra low voltage, they don’t require PAT testing. Neither does equipment that’s double insulated, although a visual inspection by a competent person is recommended here. New electrical equipment should come in a safe condition. For that reason, it wouldn’t need to go through a portable appliance test. It should, however, be subject to a simple visual check to make sure it is not damaged and is safe to use.

All electrical appliances must be labelled to show they have been PAT tested
No, this isn’t true. Much like PAT testing itself, there is no legal requirement for labelling electrical equipment that’s undergone testing. But it’s worth doing. Labelling or keeping a record of PAT testing is beneficial for your business for several reasons. Firstly, it’s an easy way to prove a testing scheme is in place. This is very useful when it comes to demonstrating compliance with the UK Health and Safety Executive, and insurance companies. Secondly, it helps all parties monitor and review the effectiveness of a testing programme.  Labelling is clear, helping to identify new, older and frequently used appliances. And thirdly, it helps with the overall efficiency of future appliance tests.

I get my appliances tested – do I still need to do visual inspections?
Absolutely, yes! Visual checks are crucial to the day-to-day maintenance of your electrical appliances. Employees should be made aware of the importance of checking items over before using them. Especially if they are bringing their own electrical appliances into work. Just because the items do not belong to the business, they still need to be checked. They may also need to be tested as part of your appliance maintenance programme. We recommend assigning staff members to carry out visual inspections across the business. It pays to give them some simple training and a straightforward checklist of things to look out for.

We hope we have covered some of the key truths about PAT testing. However, if your business is in a niche industry and you have specific questions relating to appliance testing, contact us for more advice.
If you do visual checks but need to get started with regular PAT testing of your organisation’s appliances, get in touch for a free, no obligation quote.