PAT Testing Frequency – how often PAT testing needs doing

There was a time when businesses got their electrical equipment checked to make sure it was safe, and then they rechecked after a desired period of time based on the guidance of the inspector. This made perfect sense.

Then over time it became normal practice to get all appliances tested every year. This also made perfect sense because doing so was considered an appropriate amount of time between checks to ensure appliances stayed safe or to capture any faults that had developed, and not too long a period where dangers could arise without being found.

This period of time also became a national standard – insurance companies preferred it, fire officers preferred it, health and safety preferred it.

It was simple, and it happened everywhere.

The beauty of it was that a business could get a local PAT tester to visit their workplace, inspect all their appliances, do running repairs, test items that needed testing and provide them with a comprehensive report that listed all appliances, and the test results.  This was exactly what everyone needed to comply with the likes of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974, Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and so on.

When an accident occurred and the HSE got involved, or an insurance investigator, they’d ask – “when did you last check this appliance was safe?” And they’d be able to show them their PAT Certificate, which showed the appliance was checked within the last 12 months, and the assessor would be happy. Box ticked, pay-out rubber stamped. (*there’s a bit more to it than this but you get the gist)

PAT testing was carried out annually for years – it was never an issue, it was cost effective as it didn’t really cost that much and the beauty of it was it gave a business everything they needed.

Then in 2011 the Government got involved and the Lofted Report was commissioned. And then it all got very confusing.

The report was written in reference to all kinds of Health and Safety systems, but what was pounced on more by the press than anything, was the portable appliance testing. Unfortunately many people don’t hold it in high regard – these people have not suffered an electric shock or had their business wiped out by an electrical fire.

The report suggested that not all items of electrical equipment needed testing every year; some appliances didn’t need testing as often and some needed it doing more often, and the messages put out ranged from the sensible to the ridiculous.

The HSE, and the IET put out their guidance on how often appliances should be tested, and everyone was suddenly talking about their PAT testing frequency.

Computers should be tested this often, power leads this often, kettles this often, tools this often, vacuum cleaners this often and all of a sudden it was very confusing and very expensive. Before this a business had got the tester in to test 300 items every year and it cost them £500.00. Now they needed to get them in every 3 years for the stationery IT equipment, every 5 for other stationery equipment, every 6 months for the vacuum cleaner, every year for the kitchen appliances, and so on, and each time there was a callout charge, and more and more paperwork and before anyone knew it a very simple system had got very complicated, and expensive.

To top it all off, because things were now on different frequencies you needed to show how you came up with that frequency, and how that frequency ensured safety, because despite guidance being available, it was just guidance and not a legal timeframe.

So now you have to do a risk assessment, and not just one; many. A fire risk assessment, an assessment of the risk of use, and assessment of the environment, an assessment of different types of appliance, and each one costs money to produce. Suddenly that £500 PAT test is costing £2000 in assessor fees before you start doing the appliance tests.

The Lofsted report was talked about (argued) for years, and nobody could come up with a clear justification about whether it had improved the system.

Aware of all this confusion in 2020 guidance started to change, retest tables were pulled from guidance documents, and the message simply was – get your appliances checked regularly enough to ensure they stay safe to use, and to prevent danger.

So what is an acceptable time period to prevent danger?

Nobody knows, because every workplace is different, users are different and you have to do your risk assessments to determine that.

Or, you simply get your PAT testing done in full every year, or a period proportionate to the risk of the use and environment. If your PAT Testing company is anywhere near as good at doing their job as you are doing yours, they’ll be able to give you some great advice on this.

You see, annual PAT tests are proven to prevent danger, and having done our job for as long as we have we know that this is the best frequency to work with.

We can guide you on your PAT Testing Frequency, it may be that we don’t have to test everything every year, such as if your desktop computers are secured with ‘arms’ and cables are tidy in trunking, straight into floor boxes, but not everyone is the same and it’s impossible to determine without first seeing your site, and testing all your equipment initially.

If your site is low risk, like an office based business, we recommend testing everything initially, then again in 12 months. From that we can assess the changes and recommend a new retest period, which could be keep it the same, or extend the term between tests for some or all equipment.

However, in high risk environments we may recommend more frequent tests – on a building sites tools should be tested every 3 months!

Either way, whatever we recommend, the final decision on how you proceed is yours, because as a business owner or appointed duty holder, if an accident occurs it is your responsibility, and in turn, your responsibility for preventing that accident, so only you can decide what maintenance and how often is most suitable for your workplace.

The best advice we can give you right now, is stop trying to second guess it, let us come in to test all your equipment and assess your workplace, and from that we will give you our recommendations. After that it’s up to you how you proceed.

Richard Ayre, DRA PAT Testing

Need help with your PAT Testing Frequency?

If you hadn’t already guessed it, how often you need to get PAT testing done is a grey area. Mainly because you don’t ever need to get PAT testing done; you need to maintain safe electrical equipment and collate records to support that. PAT testing Certificates are a great way to achieve this.

If you’re totally confused, or you need some help why don’t we set up a meeting? I can come to your workplace so we can talk through your options. Or just send me an email to explain your situation and I’ll get back to you with my thoughts. There’s no obligation.

Get in touch with Richard, email

Seaward Apollo 600 PAT tester, PAT test labels, St James Park in background - home of Newcastle United

More PAT Testing Frequency Information

Everything you ever wanted to know about how often PAT testing should be done is included here.

Duty Holders, or managers of premises and businesses, are expected to know their legal responsibilities; although what is expected and what is reality are two different things. “As a business owner I know how hard it is to know everything, which is why I utilise experts who can guide me, just as you can with us for maintaining safe electrical equipment.”

You should understand and apply legislation and assess the risks in respect of equipment that you are responsible for. You have a legal responsibility to ensure that equipment in your charge is safe.

How often should you get PAT testing done?

As often as is necessary to maintain safe equipment and prevent danger.

From our experience, from the amount of repairs we come across, from a fire prevention and safety perspective, we and many other safety representatives prefer to see businesses get their electrical equipment inspected every year – insurance companies prefer it, there is more chance of faults being found and fixed before they become a problem, checking equipment this regularly keeps on top of safety.

However, we also understand that you may not want the disruption of annual tests, or the expense of it, so prefer to look at ways to maintain a safe workplace with less frequent checks. If you don’t want to do it every year and your workplace is low risk, like a clean and tidy office, then you may be ok doing it every 2 or even 3 or 4 years. As long as you can justify it in a risk assessment should you ever need it.

Don’t extend it to longer than that without a watertight risk assessment.

PAT Testing frequency is dependent on :

  • The type of electrical appliance
  • The use of the electrical appliance
  • The environment the appliance is being used in
  • The user of the appliance
  • The risk of the appliance getting damaged

After taking all these factors into consideration, basically be carrying out a risk assessment, you can decide on your PAT Testing frequency (or how often PAT testing needs doing).

How often should you PAT test electrical equipment?

As discussed briefly above, PAT testing should be repeated as often as is necessary to reduce or remove the risk of an accident occurring. This could be anything from 3-monthly for power tools on a building site to every 5 years for a well maintained server system in an office building. There are many factors to consider when undertaking a risk assessment for electrical equipment, but in doing so you can put in place a suitable PAT testing frequency to carry forward in your business.

You should make your PAT testing company aware of your preferred frequencies for the different types of equipment, so they can help you maintain them, and also so they can feedback to you if any updates are needed based on test results.

Is annual PAT Testing necessary?

Whilst it is no secret that too many businesses get annual PAT testing, it is necessary for some to do it, and for others, it is often the cheapest and easiest option available so they choose to do it.

The PAT industry prefers you to get annual PAT testing carried out, simply because it is good for business, but also because experience shows us that annual testing usually leads to safer workplaces.

But if you want you can do a risk assessment instead which usually takes up a lot of time and can be a lot more expensive than an annual PAT test.

We are however, very happy to discuss your options with you, and show you where we can save you money by carrying out your electrical testing more efficiently.

What you need to do to maintain safe electrical equipment

It is important that you as a business owner or duty holder for the company are aware of what you are expected to do, to maintain safety against electrical risks.

This applies in principle to anyone managing or running a business of any kind, and in part, every employee is also responsible – we are all responsible for electrical safety/

You know electricity kills right? Of course you do, but do you know keeping people safe from dodgy electrical equipment is actually really easy to do.

1. Check your equipment before you use it
2. Get us in to PAT test it as often as is necessary to reduce the risks

That’s right, if you check your electrical equipment before you use it, and you get it PAT tested on a regular basis, the chances of an electrical accident occurring, dramatically reduce, possible even are removed altogether.

To remove the risk of an electrical accident, the best way, is to get PAT testing done as often as possible. Every year is widely regarding as an acceptable period between checks, but more often, or less frequent may be better for your equipment; some electrical appliances can get easily damaged, and others are less likely to, so this means there is no one size fits all option.

It’s actually widely considered, though, that in most cases, if you get equipment tested every year, and your PAT tester looks at more than just your appliances, and you do your own visual checks in-between, then you should be able to maintain a safe workplace.

Insurance companies tend to prefer annual frequencies, as do many regulatory bodies and it is considered best practice in most workplaces (except the really dirty or dangerous places).

The HSE on the other hand, don’t like to get drawn into telling you what to do so they advise you do a risk assessment.

Contrary to popular belief, not all appliances need testing, and not all need testing every year, but ALL appliances do require regular inspections by a competent, experienced person. 

If your PAT tester doesn’t get his screwdriver out, and doesn’t open plugs to check inside, he is not doing what you are paying for. 

You need to assess the risks

So HSE guidance recommends a risk assessment be carried out to determine what preventative maintenance measures need to be carried out, and how often that needs doing.

In most offices for example a risk assessment will say that most of your equipment is low risk – it sits on a desk for years and never moves, so the chances of a fault are slim, so you could do a test every 4 years with an inspection at 2 years. That would be acceptable. Some other equipment, that may move more often will need checking more often, so that could be done every 1 or 2 years. You may have field engineers with tools in their vans; they’ll need doing more often than that, probably. However, your insurer may expect an annual PAT test on your IT equipment, so check.

Your insurer will also want to see a risk assessment in the event of an investigation, so if you choose anything other than annual – do a risk assessment, in fact, do one anyway.

If you manage a building site however, then you need equipment checking a lot more often. Power tools get easily damaged, they get wet, and they’re prone to damage so they need a test every 3 months, and a monthly inspection! We can do the 3-monthly part but it may be worth training someone in-house to do the inspection.

Thorough Visual Inspections and PAT tests are needed

When we do our PAT tests, we inspect every appliance thoroughly; if there is a fault or damage to the plug, or cable, we repair it automatically, (if it’s the standard 13amp type plug this is done for free); if the fuse is wrong we change it, and if the plug is beyond repair we’ll replace that too, also for free.

If the cable is damaged, we’ll cut it back to a safe place and reattach the plug. If the cable needs replacing, if we can do it, we’ll quote you for that task.

If the appliance is beyond repair by us we will fail it; it’s possible a specialist engineer may be able to repair it, and if so, we will advise that action.

If we come across any other safety issues, such as overloaded extensions, and appliances being used incorrectly, we’ll report that to you and guide you what to do.

On completion we will send you your PAT Testing Certificate Report which logs all appliances and confirms they are safe, or if not, what to do with them.

If you think you need your appliances PAT Testing, or have any more questions email or call us.

How you can improve electrical safety

What can you do to improve safety?

We wouldn’t recommend skipping a PAT test, but you can make things better in the interim period, and this may lead to us recommending longer intervals between tests.

You’re actually required, by Health and Safety to do your own internal user checks on electrical equipment, but not many people even know that! It’s just impossible to know everything every business owner is expected to do, which is why so many of us rely on the experts for guidance.

You should do an assessment of any electrical hazards, which covers:

  • who could be harmed
  • how the level of risk has been established
  • the precautions taken to control that risk

The risk assessment should take into consideration the type of electrical equipment used, the way in which it is used and the environment that it is used in.

You must make sure that the electrical equipment is:

  • suitable for its intended use and the conditions in which it is operated
  • only used for its intended purpose

You should check cables and sockets for:

  • Cables, plugs, sockets and fittings must be robust enough and adequately protected for the working environment.
  • Extension leads must not be overloaded, and fully unwound when in use.
  • Enough sockets should be available and check there are no trailing cables that can cause people to trip or fall.
  • The socket switch must be accessible to cut off the power quickly in an emergency.

Ensure any electrical equipment brought to work by employees, or any hired or borrowed, is suitable for use before using it and remains suitable by being maintained as necessary

Electrical equipment users should carry out visual checks. Remove the equipment from use immediately and check it, repair it or replace it if:

  • the plug or connector is damaged
  • the cable has been repaired with tape, is not secure, or internal wires are visible etc
  • burn marks or stains are present (suggesting overheating)

Repairs should only be carried out by a competent person (someone who has the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the work safely – in-house or get us in to do it).

If you find a particular appliance is becoming damaged regularly then it needs more frequent PAT checks so tell us.

You should also ensure that the fixed wiring installation is inspected and tested regularly (usually every 3-5 years), i.e. the circuits from the meter and consumer unit supplying light switches, sockets, wired-in equipment (eg cookers, hairdryers) etc, to be carried out regularly so there is little chance of deterioration leading to danger. We can arrange this for you.

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.

The table below is an example of how you could consider the risk of electrical equipment in different working environments. It is meant as an example not a recommendation. A recommendation for your business cannot be made without us seeing it.

Working environment Risk Level Why? Recommended frequency
Office based businesses and shops Low risk Items are rarely moved so less change of damage, minimal specialist equipment and no industrial appliances on site Test every 4 years, inspect after 2 – or test every 2 years
Schools Low to medium risk  Equipment is rarely moved so there is little chance of damage however children are more prone to accidents and causing damage Test every 1 to 2 years
Public use buildings where equipment is used by the public Medium risk e.g. hotels, church halls, etc. It is harder to monitor use of equipment which increases the risk of human error. Increased chances of legal action in the even of an accident Test every 1 year
Industrial buildings, workshops, etc. Medium to high risk Staff regularly use varied equipment, it’s not always maintained on site and prone to damage. Test every 6 months to 1 year
Building sites High risk There is a high chance equipment will get wet, damaged, badly repaired plus with the frequent use of hand held tools there is a high risk of accident Test every 3 months

Contact us to arrange your electrical testing

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.

Contact us to do your PAT Testing

Hopefully you now think we are the best company to do your PAT testing, if so please get in touch. Our number is 01916661009 and email is

How long does a PAT test last?

The PAT Test lasts as long as the appliance can be guaranteed to be safe, or is safe. A PAT test is like an MOT on a car; it’s only as good as the time of testing. An appliance could get mistreated or damaged in other ways, after the test has been completed, and it is back in use.

Normally the PAT Tester will guide you as to how often an appliance needs testing, but you are responsible for ensuring appliances get tested as often as is necessary to remove risk to users.

How long does a PAT testing Certificate last?

The PAT testing Certificate lasts for ever if you get a PDF copy like we send out; if you get a paper copy it may get wet and tear… sorry that is a little joke!

The Certificate confirms that appliances have been tested and are safe – it doesn’t have an expiry on it, because it is based on something that has happened. Just like a Certificate for winning a race; it’s for that race that has happened.

How often should you PAT test electrical equipment?

How often should you PAT test electrical equipment? This is a good question. Electrical equipment should be tested as often as a risk assessment recommends.

You need to do a assess the risks of the appliance, to determine what measures need taking to ensure the appliance remains safe.

You can get a competent person to do this for you, or you can get us to do it.

If we do it for you, we will assess the risks of the appliances, their use and the working environment, to put in place appropriate retest periods to ensure equipment stays safe. We will review it on a regular basis, and charge a fee for our time putting this in place.

How often should you PAT test electrical equipment?

The best way for you to work out how often your appliances need PAT testing is to get us in to test them then let us guide you.

The HSE recommends intervals, which are good for guidance but nothing beats the knowledge of an experienced PAT tester.

PAT testing is a process for checking electrical equipment that uses a plug to connect to the mains power to make sure it’s safe to continue using. 

You need to get such electrical appliances, referred to as portable appliances (because they’re portable from the mains by unplugging) PAT tested regularly to make sure they maintain the right safety standards.

Whilst being inspected (part of the test process) by a competent engineer, faults or defects may be found; these should be repaired (where possible), usually referred to as remedial repairs, and this process is called preventative maintenance; something you’re required to do by law. 

Remedial repairs usually consist of repairs to the plug inside and out, including replacement of it, replacement fuses where the fuse is incorrect or blown, and repairs to the existing cable where the cable has been damaged. 

Other repairs may be required that are not classed as remedial, where additional costs may be charged, including replacing the full cable if it is damaged beyond repair or not to British Standard, such as a foreign plug or counterfeit import. 

If the appliance itself is faulty the engineer may not be able to do the required repair as a specialist will be needed, so the engineer will most likely fail it. In this situation he’ll advise what action to take, and when you’ve done that you’ll need to get us back to retest the appliance. 

When the inspection is complete, depending on the appliance the engineer will either pass it, label it and move on, or carry out electrical tests using a PAT tester machine. 

If those tests are deemed acceptable the appliance will pass and the engineer will label and record it. 

If it fails any of these tests the appliance will fail overall and the engineer will recommend what action to take, which may include repair and retest, or replacing the appliance. 

PAT testing frequency

This process should then be repeated at an interval proportionate to the risk of the appliance, it’s use and the environment it is being used in. This needs to be determined by a risk assessment by a person competent in electrical safety.

This could be someone in house, an independent fire risk assessor or a suitably trained representative from the Pat testing company if there is one available. If you’re using a contractor for this task it could cost anywhere from a day’s wage to thousands of pounds, depending on the size of the task.

The risk assessment results will determine what further action needs taking such as full tests, only visual inspections etc and how often the appliances need this doing. This could be anywhere from 1 to 3 monthly for high risk environments to 5 yearly for fixed equipment in low risk workplaces. There are hundreds of possibilities and the whole process becomes very complicated; you’ll need the assessor to review the system regularly, and the PAT company to manage the handling of it, which will lead to more charges.

Putting a risk based PAT testing frequency in place can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds which is why most companies prefer to go with the old fail safe option of annual PAT tests.

It is deemed acceptable by insurers, health and safety etc that annual tests in most environments is the best course of action for maintaining safe electrical equipment.

Annual PAT tests are proven to keep on top of equipment safety and done right any faults are usually spotted and repaired before they become an issue.

Annual PAT tests also work out a lot cheaper in the long run, and are easier to budget for; it’s also a lot easier to manage.

Make the right decision – it’s your responsibility

The responsibility for putting in place a programme to maintain safe electrical equipment is yours so you have to make sure that the retest period you use is acceptable to you; unless you tell us otherwise we’ll default to annual reminders for retests.

If we’re sending you an annual reminder you’re not going to forget and so your equipment always remains complaint with the legal ramifications.

You should do a risk assessment for proper PAT Testing frequency

pat testing frequency is decided by a risk assessment

PAT testing frequency – Keep it Simple

As we say in some ways it can get really complicated whilst in others it can be quite simple to do. In business “KISS” has always been one of my favourite sayings “Keep it simple…” What we tend to recommend is this.. we check everything every year which gives you peace of mind that your equipment is safe, and you know that if you get any new kit it will be checked in less than 12 months after you introduced it to the business.

As an added bonus, as we’re a local PAT testing company you know that if you need to call us out, we’re likely going to be passing soon so it’ll cost you next to nothing.

If you have a server we don’t turn it off – we recommend at some point in a 5-year period you should get it shutdown and tested fully but we have some clients who have never turned it off and that is their choice. We can do a thermal image check just to make sure there are no areas getting overly hot.

Portable appliances need pat testing often to reduce the risk of danger - PAT testing frequency

FAQs about PAT Testing Frequency

How often do I need PAT testing done?

PAT testing needs to be done as often as a risk assessment recommends… that’s what the guidance says. You or another competent person should carry out an electrical / fire prevention risk assessment on all electrical appliance types and determine what maintenance is required and what risks could arise from the use of the appliance. We can do this for you too. 

To make the process easier the Health and Safety Executive offer excellent guidance on retest periods based on environment types; for example equipment on a building site should be tested every 3 months; whilst stationery equipment in an office only needs a test every 4 years. 

Best practice still recommends that you get tested every 12 months; especially if you are not planning to do anything in-house. 

When you get your PAT testing done by us we will automatically assess your risks, and recommend appropriate intervals for you; saving you the hassle. 

But how often is PAT testing required by law?

Sorry but there isn’t a straight answer for this one; we wish there was – it would make our job much easier! It comes down to a risk assessment every time. 

How long does a PAT test last?

When you get the MOT done on your car, you can drive it away having successfully passed then on the way home your headlight goes off.. that would have been a failure a few minutes earlier. And if the Police spot you driving at night they may stop you and give you a ticket. You are now responsible for getting the fault fixed and should get the MOT done again, although few of us actually do as it is not a legal requirement. 

It’s the same with PAT testing – you get the PAT done on your appliance, let’s say an electric drill; it passes and gets a pass label put on. You start using it again, and accidentally catch the cable with the drill bit and cut through it. It’s no longer safe and needs repairing; so you repair it. As an employer or self employed person, or even an employee you are responsible for health and safety, and are required to do a ‘user check‘ on an appliance before use. If the lead is damaged you should not use it and get it repaired by a competent person. Covering it in insulation tape is not acceptable. 

After the repair it should get tested again, because in this case the lead will have had to be cut back and a new plug fitted, or the lead replaced fully, so the existing PAT test results are no longer valid; but not many people do this as it is not a legal requirement. 

So, how long does a PAT test last? It is over as soon as it is over; it doesn’t have an expiry. It is only really valid at the time it is done, although we can assume if an appliance is tested, passes, then never moves or gets damaged in any way, the chances of a defect occurring are very low, so it should be ok to continue using until the recommended retest period. Its because of this supposed grey area that many get tested annually because that seems the obvious choice, although generally not the most appropriate. 

How do we determine the risk?

The environment an appliance is used in is actually what is taken into account the most; most guidance tables you’ll find focus on the environment, because this is what people can most easily relate to. For example, an office is likely much safer than a building site – the office is low risk, whilst the building site is high risk. 

In an office a computer on a desk never moves, so it is very low risk, so does it need testing every year? No. Maybe every 2-4 years. However power tools on a site get bashed around, they get wet and muddy, so they need testing a lot more often – every 3 months is the norm, with inspections every month and before each use by the user. 

However, sometimes the user has to be consider too – a school is a fairly safe environment so you’d say the school is low risk; but children have a habit of breaking things, so the risk goes up, probably not up to high risk, but certainly medium – but is all equipment medium risk? No, because staff tend to look after their equipment better. So all the office equipment for example, could be low risk. This means in a school the office equipment may only need testing every 2-3 years, whilst the equipment in classrooms should be tested annually. But the risk is probably higher than annual so there is a reliance on the teachers to check and report any faults that arise in the mean time. 

These are just examples, but are factors that need to be taken into account. 

When should PAT testing be done and how often should you pat test?

PAT testing should be done initially and then it should be done as often as is necessary to maintain safe equipment. These are not questions easily answered in a short answer on a website, but can be easily answered after we have seen your site, and tested your equipment so the first thing to do is book us to do your initial testing. 

How often should you get PAT testing done?

PAT testing should be completed as often as is necessary depending on the risks associated with the equipment use, and the environment it is being used in. We can assess this and guide you into what would be the most appropriate frequency for your business when we do your testing. When you do a risk assessment you must always consider your insurance policy as that may insist on annual testing, but as a general rule the following usually applies:

  • Equipment that never moves in an office like a server or fixed appliance should be tested every 5 years
  • Other office equipment such as computers should be tested every 2 years (at most)
  • Equipment in a factory or workshop should be tested every year
  • And tools used on a building site should be tested every 3 months

How often will our Server need testing?

Server systems are made up usually of IT equipment, and are stationery appliances, usually powered off a large surge protected socket extension, contained in a controlled ‘cage’ system. A server is usually monitored and maintained by a specialist engineer from an IT team; this should reduce the risk. 

Being stationery IT equipment, that is managed a server shouldn’t need testing as often as say a computer in an office, so it is generally accepted that a full test every 5 years is sufficient; although this should be every 5 years from install, not from the start of a PAT testing programme. 

If interim inspections are required, without unplugging the items there is little an engineer can do but look at what they can see; some companies will still label up each part, which isn’t totally wrong but some would question what they are actually doing. To enhance this, we have a thermal image camera; although not carried by all engineers we can arrange for this to be carried out to check for any overly hot spots in the system. 

Our Equipment is used by the public, how often should it be tested?

Equipment used by the public should be tested on an annual basis to make sure it is maintained in good condition – you should also make sure you inspect it regularly because a year is a long time and issues can occur in-between tests. 

The latest guidance on PAT Testing Frequency

The latest (2020) Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment give this guidance on how often portable electrical appliances should be tested.

Inspections and testing is a means of determining whether maintenance is required; the actual frequency will depend on the likelihood of maintenance being needed, coupled with the consequence of a lack of maintenance (a portable appliance testing is considered to be maintenance).

There are no specific legal timescales in UK law for frequency of inspection and testing of electrical equipment – it should merely be done as often as is necessary to prevent danger.

The frequency where inspection and testing take place will vary for different equipment, workplaces, and users; possibly even testers. There may be requirements specified by insurance companies, landlords or other interested parties.

To accurately reflect the legal requirements of the EAWR, regulation 4(2) a robust risk assessment should be carried out to determine the frequencies between inspections and testing. This is the responsibility of the duty holder for the equipment. Risk encompasses many factors that can influence the decision including:

  • The environment – equipment in a ‘benign’ environment such as an office will suffer less damage than equipment in an arduous environment like a construction site. The difference in test frequencies could range from as infrequent as 3-4 yearly, all the way down to every 3 months on the site.
  • The users – if users report damage as it happens or when it is spotted, hazards can be avoided. On the other hand if equipment faults tend not to be reported or get ‘bodge-job’ repairs, more frequent inspection and testing is required.
  • Equipment construction – The safety of class 1 equipment is dependent on a connection with the earthing of a fixed electrical installation; whereas class 2 equipment, which is double insulated, and not reliant on earth is considered to be ‘safer’. Class 2 equipment is more often found in safer environments like an office, and would not need a test (but does need an inspection), where-as the class 1 appliance will need more frequent testing.
  • Equipment type – hand-held equipment is like a drill or vacuum cleaner is more likely to get damaged than a desk top computer, so should be inspected and tested more often.
  • Frequency of use – Equipment that is used more often will need checking more often; a hand-held drill used every day may incur more damage so will need checking more often. Also in this instance a desktop PC used every day by the same or different users may need checking more often than a printer that only gets used occasionally.
  • Installation method – with a fixed appliance, is the isolater switch near by, how much flexible cable is free and what is its condition.
  • Previous records – where possible previous records should be considered
  • Functional in-service life – how long the appliance is expected to be in use for, before being replaced. For example a hair salon may only keep their hairdryers for a year before changing them.

Conducting of and acting on any risk assessment is the responsibility of the duty holder; the duty holder may enlist the services of a competent person (e.g. the PAT testing company/engineer) to assist in the process.

It is not uncommon for a PAT testing company that has not been advised of their client’s frequency requirements to recommend annual reviews or retests, and as often insurance companies require annual checks this is good practice. We tend to lean towards this or HSE guidance if we are not told otherwise.

We have and do act as a guide to clients for their frequency requirements, although we do not accept any liability for this.