Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 was extended in 1989 to include the safety of all electrical appliances in the workplace. This requirement was covered by the introduction of the “Electricity at Work Regulations 1989”, which took full effect from April 1990.

Further legislation, The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 and the Provision of Use Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), emphasise the need to have a safe system in place to ensure all businesses and workplaces are responsible for the safety of their portable electrical appliances.

The Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, which was prepared by the Institution of Engineering and Technology with a view to determining the inspections and tests necessary to ensure that electrical equipment, is maintained properly to prevent danger. Although some references may be made to legislation within this document, the specific legislation should be consulted.

The legislation of specific relevance to electrical maintenance is as follows:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

Is PAT testing a legal requirement? Before we start let’s clear this up. 

PAT testing, PATs, PAC, Portable Appliance Testing or any other term you want to use, is a process for checking electrical equipment fitted with a plug to ensure it is safe. In the industry it is called inspection and testing

Inspection and Testing of appliances with plugs, is called Portable Appliance testing; a PAT tester tests appliances with plugs. 

The legal information on this page will show you where this applies, it will show you that inspections are legally required to make sure electrical equipment is safe, and in some cases, further testing is also required. 

You will not read anywhere that PAT testing, PAT or portable appliance testing is a legal requirement, because it is a process of checking electrical appliances fitted with a plug to see if they are safe, which we call inspection and testing. However, inspection and testing is a legal requirement to be able to comply with some regulations. 

The added benefit to you, is to comply you need to keep records. The PAT Test Certificate report provides you with the records; but make sure your PAT Tester provides you with a detailed list of all appliances, as it is this that you need. 

The Legal Requirements for electrical safety at work

Although reference is made to legislation, the content here or anywhere on this website should not be considered as legal advice.

The law requires electrical equipment to be properly maintained as part of a maintenance regime inspections are necessary and testing may be required PAT includes a thorough inspection, and when necessary further tests using a PAT machine can be carried out.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 puts a duty of care on the employer, employees and the self-employed to ensure safety for all using work premises.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require the employer to ensure that equipment is only used for operations and under conditions for which it is suitable; and it requires records of maintenance activities be kept – A PAT engineer will assess the suitability of an appliance for the environment it is being used in. When PAT is completed, you’ll be provided with a record of results and PAT Test Certificate – this is an acceptable record of maintenance.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 requires every employer to ensure that equipment is suitable for the use for which it is provided, is in good order and inspected as necessary to ensure that it is maintained in a safe condition.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which cover all electrical equipment from a battery-powered torch to 400 kV overhead power lines, require all systems to be maintained to prevent danger. Danger is defined as anything that risks injury or damage from fire. Records (PAT results) can be used to demonstrate compliance with the regulations. The EAWR is primarily concerned with ensuring that an electrical installation is in a safe condition and that work performed on an electrical installation is done in a safe manner.

PAT checks electrical equipment is safe; and an EICR checks the electrical installation to ensure it is up to date and safe. PAT Results (records or log) can be used as a suitable management tool, for auditing and insurance purposes to keep a record of what equipment you have; but also, to check on the use of unauthorised equipment brought into work by employees, such as heaters, hair straighteners and personal phone chargers.

The Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing recommends that records are kept and maintained.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require every employer to ensure that workplace equipment, devices and systems are maintained, keeping them in good working order and in good repair. These regulations are concerned with the consequences of equipment failures.

The Housing Act 2004 (England and Wales) includes the requirement for a risk assessment for residential rental properties. This requires an assessment of all potential hazards that may be present in a residential property, and ‘to provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupiers or visitors’. From an electrical perspective this includes the electrical installation and equipment provided in the property. The condition of associated leads and plugs of equipment should also be taken into account in the assessment, if they are provided as part of the rental property.

Guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) indicates that when accommodation is re-let, the electrical equipment will be classed as being supplied to that tenant for the first time and should therefore be rechecked.

So, before the start of each new let of a residential property the electrical equipment supplied with it (e.g., fridge, washing machine, kettle, TV, etc.) should be PAT tested.

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 require electrical equipment to be safe when first supplied, e.g. it should carry a genuine “CE” mark. This means it satisfies European safety requirements and so when new, will be safe to use.

These regulations also apply if equipment is supplied as part of a hire agreement, sold second hand and if supplied in the course of business, thus including the safety of electrical equipment that is supplied as part of furnished accommodation (treated as hired/leased).  

The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 is important for companies that hire or supply equipment as part of a contract for good and services. Within a hire agreement, goods supplied under the contract must be electrically safe for use.

Plugs and sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994 make it a requirement for mains operated equipment sold to consumers in the Uk to be fitted with an approved BS1363 plug; for equipment imported with non-standard plugs provision is made for approved conversion plugs to be used.

Landlords – equipment in rented accommodation must be safe and kept in a safe condition; if supplied as part of a tenancy, equipment should be checked periodically, for example, each time a new tenancy is arranged, equipment should be checked. This applies to housing as well as holiday lets and other short term property rentals.

Users of equipment also have responsibility, to ensure equipment they are using has no obvious visual damage or defects. Users should be instructed to remove from service and report any defective equipment.

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