Portable Appliance Testing – A Basic Guide

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is a process by which the portable electrical appliances at a place of work are tested and checked for electrical safety. This ensures they are safe to use by employees.
Portable appliances are checked at regular intervals depending on the type of equipment and the environment in which the appliance is used. For example, a portable drill on a building site may need to be checked more frequently than a computer base station which is safe from harm under a person’s desk.

In the PAT process the appliance is given a visual examination and then put through a range of tests by a PAT machine.

Employers often have a range of questions about portable appliance testing. We’ve tried to answer some of the most common here:

Should portable appliances be tested every year?

The Electricity at Work Regulations do not stipulate a time frame when items should be checked, however they do state that any equipment which may cause injury is maintained in a safe condition.

This means it’s not a legal requirement to PAT test items and hence it’s not a legal requirement to test annually.

Do I have to test new portable appliances before they are used for the first time?

Brand new equipment should be delivered in a safe condition and hence will not need to be tested. However it is recommended to give any item a quick check before using and then check it again on a regular basis to make sure it is in a safe working condition.

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Do I need to keep a record of the items I’ve tested?

There is no legal requirement but it’s a good idea to keep a record of the items which have been tested and when they were tested.

Is portable appliance testing compulsory for every business?

All the law says is that electrical equipment should be maintained to prevent danger. It does not say portable appliance testing is compulsory. However PAT is an effective way to make sure that appliances are checked and records of these checks kept.

I have my equipment tested on a regular basis. But does a qualified electrician have to perform the tests?

The HSE say that a ‘competent’ person should do the testing. This means that if the person has enough knowledge and training it should be sufficient. The person will however need the right equipment to do the tests, have the knowledge and ability to use the equipment properly and understand the results.

How often should I check my portable appliances?

The frequency with which each item is tested should be based on the type of item and the environment in which it is used. An employer may decide that a portable fan presents very little risk so only needs to be checked every two or three years, whereas they may decide that the office kettle need to be checked every six months.

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