PAT testing also known as portable appliance testing is the name of a process in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and Australia by which electrical appliances are routinely checked for safety. It is the term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use. Most electrical safety defects can be found by visual examination but some types of defect can only be found by testing.
Some appliances that need PAT testing include: Electric drills, monitors, printers, PCs, kettles and larger items like photocopiers, vending machines and others. A cordless power tool would not need to be PAT tested but their battery chargers that plug into the wall for power do need to be tested.
Someone may ask, Do new appliances require PAT testing?
According to the Health and Safety Executive: “New equipment should be supplied in a safe condition and not require a formal portable appliance inspection or test. However, a simple visual check is recommended to verify the item is not damaged; this depends entirely on your discretion.
Portable appliances testing regulation
PAT testing law requires that all landlords, employers and even self-employed individuals make sure that their portable electrical appliances are safe and are suitable and used for the purposes intended. PAT testing is done to ensure that all electrical equipment that is classified as “portable” is deemed safe for use.
How frequent should you carry out portable appliance testing
The frequency of inspection and testing depends upon the type of equipment, the environment it is used in and the rate of usage. For example, a power tool used on a construction site should be examined more frequently than a lamp in a hotel bedroom. You can get more information here.
It is important that record of this testing be kept as it can be a useful management tool for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the maintenance scheme – and to demonstrate that a scheme exists; though there is no legal requirement to label equipment that has been inspected or tested, nor is there a requirement to keep records of these activities.
How to carry out PAT testing
This can be done by hiring an external company to test all the electrical products in a business. It should be ensured that the person carrying out the test has had some PAT training, either by an official qualification or by attending a health and safety course offered by some electrical health and safety companies. Also, it can be done in-house by a competent person. In a low-risk environment most dangerous defects can be found simply by checking the appliances for obvious signs of damage such as frayed cables.
Ways of carrying out portable appliance testing
User checks: This involves advising the users of potential danger signs. This can result in problems being picked up before they can result in any danger. For example, if the power cable is frayed or the plug is cracked, users need to be advised not to use the appliance and report the fault to a supervisor. This information can be put across, say by the use of a poster or in a memo. User checks are always carried out before the operation, and the results are generally not recorded unless a defect is identified.
Formal visual inspections: This is a process of simply inspecting the appliance, the cable and the plug for any obvious signs of damage. According to the HSE, this process can find more than 90% of faults.
Combined inspections and PAT: At periodic intervals, the portable appliances are tested to ensure that the degree of protection is adequate. At these intervals, a formal visual inspection is carried out and then followed by PAT testing.
Note: The inside of the plug should be checked unless it is moulded or there is an unbroken seal covering the screws (bad internal wiring or an unsuitable fuse would cause the item to be classed as dangerous).