How often should PAT testing be done?

PAT testing frequency, how often is PAT testing required, is something everyone wants to know, because they think doing it as little as possible is the best way to save money… it’s not. The best way to save money is to get electrical equipment PAT tested often, to reduce the chances of a defect occurring, which reduces the chances of an accident, which reduces the chances of you being sued! 

How often should you PAT test electrical equipment?

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.

Book a PAT testing appointment

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.

Now you know all that; what are you going to do?

Contact us – get in touch by phone or email so we can discuss your situation. We can come out to test your equipment, to discuss your situation and set you up on a sensible PAT testing frequency period that will help you ensure your equipment stays safe long term.

Call 0191 666 1009 or 07897 240 878

Email info@draelectricals.co.uk

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