PAT testing frequency – how often should PAT testing be done?
How do you determine the right PAT testing frequency for your business?
How often do I need PAT testing?
How often you need PAT testing is such a complicated discussion that doesn’t actually need to be, it can actually be fairly simple, if you think like this…
A PAT test checks an electrical appliance is safe to continue using it; if you accept that and keep using it it will be safe until its gets damaged. How long that is depends on how it is used. You can do a risk assessment if you like but how sure will that be of the answer? No-one can really predict what will happen. The HSE says high risk equipment like builders tools should be checked every few months and super low risk equipment like a server rack should be checked every 5 years, with everything else somewhere in between. Even that is complicated.
If you’re not doing anything else except PAT then we recommend you don’t go more than a couple of years between tests; we don’t have to test everything but we should at least inspect it to make sure it’s still ok. This is what we tend to recommend, although this is an average and shouldn’t be taken as a hard rule:
If an appliance never moves and can’t really move like a server rack in a server room, or a water boiler that is fixed to the wall then every 5 years should be sufficient – a visual inspection more frequently would be an added bonus, or even better a thermal image check.
- If an appliance hardly ever moves, like a photocopier or a fridge freezer then a test every 3-4 years is probably sufficient.
- If an appliance could be moved but probably won’t, like a desktop computer then a test every 2-3 years is enough
- If an appliance may be moved more often, or is easily moved, like a toaster or laminator then it should be checked every 1-2 years
- If an appliance is hand held when used or needs to move a lot like a kettle, power tool, hair drier or hoover then it needs checking every year
- If an appliance is going to moved lots and lots, or will be used in a harsh environment like a building site or industrial unit were impact is likely then it will need checking more often.
If however, you are like most business owners and think that even this is complicated, you’ll probably follow best practice that has happened in the uk for around 30 years and just get everything tested every year, because that is the easiest solution by far, accepted by insurance companies, health and safety, fire assessors etc. and in the grand scheme of everything it is probably going to work out cheaper than other alternatives.
You may even be able to stretch that out to 2 years, or 3 with an 18-month inspection if you’re in a particularly low working environment, but we still think annually will give you more peace of mind.
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.
What the ‘rules’ say about PAT testing Frequency
Let’s just put this out there right now – there is no law anywhere in the UK that says how often you need PAT testing done; not one. They all leave that complicated decision up to you, but if you get it wrong and something happens they’ll come down on you like a tonne of bricks!
Imagine if you decide that getting PAT tested every 3 years is enough, because it means you can save a few hundred quid, then someone gets electrocuted and dies, and you can’t back up how you came to a 3-year frequency.
If you are going to set up electrical equipment on a specific frequency different to the norm please make sure you have a water tight risk assessment conducted by someone competent in electrical safety and fire prevention, or at least have followed HSE guidance to the letter.
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.
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.
All you need to know about PAT Testing Frequency
What we have forgotten about the frequency of PAT tests wasn’t worth knowing, and what we know about it makes your life a lot easier!
How often electrical equipment needs PAT testing is a question people ask all the time, often for the wrong reasons – it’s not about how much money you can save.
If you concentrate solely on saving money then you’re going to get punished later on for something else.
With electrical equipment, electrical wiring, or anything else electrical your safety and the safety of other users must come first, because one mistake could kill!
Take into account the risks associated with the appliance, its use and the environment and you will easily be able to determine a suitable frequency between tests for the appliance.
When we PAT Test electrical appliances we do a thorough inspection of the plug, fuse, lead and appliance followed by tests dependent on the appliance construction, such as whether it is class 1 and needs earth protection or is double insulated. All electrical equipment that operates off mains power requires regular tests to confirm it is continuing to be safe.
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.