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.

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 info@draelectricals.co.uk.

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
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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.