HSE PAT Testing Requirements
How often do I need PAT testing?
This question, about PAT testing frequency, gets asked a lot; and there are 3 possible answers which I will try to explain. It is much easier to tell you face to face but let’s try.
Do you need PAT testing? Yes you do
Why do you need PAT Testing? The HSE requires you to ensure electrical equipment provided for use at work is SAFE AT ALL TIMES to be used.
How do you ensure your equipment is safe? Maintain it to a safe standard.
How do you know it is maintaining safety standards? You don’t if you don’t get regular electrical testing carried out
And that’s the problem; the only way you are going to know if an appliance is safe is by getting it PAT tested.
HSE PAT testing recommendations require appliances to be inspected and tested as often as is necessary to maintain safe electrical equipment.
So how often do you need to get it PAT tested?
That depends on the risks associated with the appliance and its use; the HSE requires regular checks be carried out.
Example 1: If the appliance is a power tool used on a building site, the chances of it getting damaged are rather high, so it’s a high risk appliance in a high risk environment, so it needs to be checked by the user every time it is used and any faults reported, and then inspected by a competent person (usually based on the site) at regular intervals (usually monthly), and then further inspected and tested by a competent PAT tester (usually every 3-months). This is consider acceptable practice, and is recommended by the HSE in their guidance.
Example 2: If however the appliance is a computer, on a desk in clean office; and that computer’s power leads go into the desk, and are secured in a trunking system the chances of damage occurring is minimal. So it won’t need such regular checks. The user should check it before use, but probably won’t, and it probably won’t make much difference. It should be inspected by a competent person, every 1-2 years, either in-house or by one of our engineers, and it should be tested in full every 3 or 4 years (by a PAT tester).
So these are two ends of the risk analysis.
What does the HSE say about PAT Testing?
The HSE recommends you do a risk assessment, to determine how often an appliance needs testing and you can do this. It’ll probably cost quite a bit of money, and be time consuming, but you can do it, and it will save you on your PAT testing costs, as it will likely show you need it doing less often (unless your environment or equipment is higher risk then it may lead to you getting it done more often). However, whilst you will likely save on your PAT, your overall costs will probably be a lot higher. For example; a health and safety consultant doing the assessment charges £500 a day, and it takes him 2 days to do the assessment; that’s cost you £1000.00. But the PAT testing only costs you £200.00; so it’s going to take you 5-years before you save any money; by which time the risk assessment will have been reviewed and cost you even more.
The HSE also provides recommended retest intervals, which you can work to, and you can instruct us to operate at those frequencies.
Or… for ever, pretty much since PAT testing became a thing, people have tested their equipment every year, and that has been deemed satisfactory by insurers, safety consultants, fire officers, accreditors, auditors, and so on. It’s widely regarded as the best way to ensure equipment is maintained, faults are found, new equipment is added to the inventory, paperwork is created, and so on… annual PAT testing usually ensures safety at work.
This guide, Maintaining Portable electrical equipment in low risk environments by the HSE is a helpful tool for when considering retest periods.
Deciding on the PAT testing Frequency
Which option you choose is up to you, because you are responsible. Thanks to health and safety in this country, the duty holder of a business is deemed responsible for making business decisions like how you maintain safe electrical equipment, so you need to make the decision and act upon it, because if something goes wrong it is you who would be held accountable. So make the right decision. In my opinion, and it is not to my knowledge a fact, I believe that most businesses get PAT testing done annually because it is the easiest option, and usually the cheapest, even when the more costly companies are used to do the work.
Be sure you choose the right company
But what you must ensure, if you are leaving everything in the hands of annual PAT testing, is that the testing that is done is done right – that the engineer is checking every plug inside and out, that he is doing necessary repairs, and that he is conducting each test that he needs to and getting the right results. Cheaper firms are known to cut corners, miss these things out and get away with it, whilst charging you for a service which may be cheaper than we charge, but not to the standards we operate.