PAT Testing Explained

There are many myths and misunderstandings about PAT testing – who should do it, how often, why it is done, and whether it is the law.

It is certainly true to say that PAT testing or portable appliance testing is an important part of any health & safety policy.

The Health & Safety Executive states that 25% of all reportable electrical accidents involve portable appliances. The Electricity at Work Regulations place a legal responsibility on employers, employees and self-employed persons to comply with the provisions of the regulations and take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that no danger results from the use of such equipment. This in effect requires the implementation of a systematic and regular program of maintenance, inspection and testing. The Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) places such an obligation in the following circumstances:1. Where appliances are used by employees.2. Where the public may use appliances in establishments such as hospitals, schools, hotels, shops etc.3. Where appliances are supplied or hired.4. Where appliances are repaired or serviced.

The level of inspection and testing required is dependent upon the risk of the appliance becoming faulty, which is in turn dependent upon the type of appliance, the nature of its use and the environment in which it is used. The Institution of Electrical Engineers publish the "Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment" (ISBN: 978-0-86341-833-4) . This guide forms the basis for portable appliance testing in the U.K. In truth this publication is by far the best publication, as HSE guidelines are not as concise in regard to PAT testing.

PAT testing is NOT on the statute books, so for example you cannot be fined for not carrying it out, but any responsible person within an organisation, large or small, SHOULD insist on a PAT regime at regular intervals to ensure SAFETY and not just COMPLIANCE – in other words, its all very well to have the piece of paper in your hand, but has the job been done properly? BUT: Fines can be imposed if an accident happens and a PAT regime is not in place. Your insurance company may also be void, and duty holders or responsible people should check with their insurance company to find out what is expected in terms of frequency of testing, and this is often the best advice we can give.