PAT Testing Explained

Electrical testing protocols are governed by primary legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA), and secondary legislation in the form of Regulations such as the Construction and Design Management Regs 2015 (CDM), and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

Most business premises are also workplaces, therefore the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) applies, protecting the health and safety of employees, visitors and the general public. HASAWA even applies in a private home, where employees such as care workers are being sent to fulfill a contract. HASAWA is one of the few pieces of legislation that carries 'reverse onus of proof'. This means that in the event of an accident or incident, the business owner is guilty until proven innocent. The onus is on the business owner to prove that all reasonably practicable steps were taken to ensure the safety of employees and all other persons using the premises, and inspection and testing records are one way of proving this.

The Electricity At Work Regulations, 1989 cover every kettle, fax, copier, computer, extension lead, etc, including 110V equipment, in a business or public place. The Construction and Design Management Regulations 2015 cover all electrical items in use on a construction site, and in a domestic home where refurbishment works are being carried out. In fact, if it is electrical and has a plug on it, whether it is in regular use or not, then it must be maintained safely, and in the event of an accident or incident, thorough testing certificates may be a key element of your defence against a heavy fine or even imprisonment.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal requirement for PAT testing of electrical equipment in the workplace, in rented accommodation or residential care homes, except in certain specific instances mentioned in the PUWER Regs* and CDM Regs**. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):

"The frequency of inspection and testing depends upon the type of equipment and the environment it is used in. For example, a power tool used on a construction site should be examined more frequently than a lamp in a hotel bedroom. For guidance on suggested frequencies of inspection and testing, see: Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment.

It is, however, a legal requirement that portable electrical equipment, and in particular items being used in the workplace are 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used', at all times. In certain circumstances, for example tools used on a construction site, inspection and maintenance records must be maintained and retained as evidence of a structured health and safety policy. How would a company produce such evidence in the event of an accident or incident? Documentary evidence from a third party, such as a PAT testing company, provides proof that all reasonably practicable steps have been taken to ensure the safety of workers when using portable appliances.

So, to re-cap the only way that we can determine whether electrical equipment is 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used' (the legal requirement), is if it is routinely, formally visually-inspected and instrument-tested. Therefore, PAT Testing is required to ensure that such equipment, at the time of the inspection and testing at least, is indeed 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used'. 

 

Do you work with self-employed contractors?

It is your responsibility to ensure that they are also maintaining and inspecting their portable electrical appliances. You should be reviewing this information each year during the annual appraisal of subcontractors, where you check that they are able to work with your company for another year, even if they are responsible for their own health and safety. Put them in touch with us for convenient and efficient, quality testing of their tools, cables and equipment.

To ensure compliance with the law, and keep your employees and workers safe, call us today for a free quotation: 01628 850650

 

*NB: Regulation 6 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires that equipment has to be 'inspected' in work situations where the safety of the equipment depends specifically on the installation conditions, and, in particular, where conditions are liable to lead to deterioration. This is a very specific requirement, for a very specific situation, and yet even here, there is no mention of the word 'testing'.

**NB: The Construction and Design Management Regulations require 240V power tools and cables to be visually inspected before use, and PAT tested once a year. 110V power tools and cables must be visually inspected before use, and PAT tested once every three months.