What does the PAT test involve?
Every appliance undergoes a visual inspection, which requires the plug to be opened (where possible) and the insides checked.
The wiring of the plug and fuse size will be checked
The cable is checked for damage and suitability
The appliance will then be tested using a calibrated PAT tester, with different tests carried out depending on the appliance:
- Tests for earth continuity, insulation and polarity
- Additional tests can be carried out for RCD‘s and Microwave emissions.
- Tests can be done on 110v, 230v and 400v plugs
All items that pass the test will be labelled with a unique ID number and recorded on the appliance register that accompanies your Certificate.
How does your insurance company view it?
Whilst an insurance company may not directly tell you to PAT test your equipment, they do have a big interest in mitigating the risk and expect you to have a program of regular testing in place, in line with Health and Safety at Work.
Over 25% of fires start from portable appliances, so insurance companies would prefer you to be have them checked and maintained to reduce this number. If you do not, they may use it as a clause to get out of paying your claim.
Many businesses are unaware of the implications not having portable appliance testing in place can have on their insurance.
Failure to carry out the necessary tests may result in an insurance company refusing to pay out in the case of an accident or fire caused by a faulty or badly maintained electrical appliance.
Is PAT Testing compulsory?
No. The law only requires an employer to ensure that their electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger. It does not say how this should be done or how often.
Employers should take a risk-based approach, consider the type of equipment and what it is used for. If it’s used regularly and moved a lot e.g. a vacuum cleaner or a kettle, testing can be an important part of an effective maintenance regime giving employers confidence that they are doing what is necessary to help them meet their legal obligations.
However, if you choose to follow this be very careful; whilst the HSE says this, it would be unwise not to have a regime of inspection in place.
If a fire occurs, or an accident at work, caused by a dangerous appliance, the HSE and potentially the courts, will insist the employer prove they took reasonable action to ensure safe electrical equipment, such as by having a PAT testing regime in place. If the employer cannot produce this they will be considered negligent, and have to face the consequences that come with that.
You have to think, for the relatively low cost of a PAT test, is it really worth not getting it done?
How often is PAT testing required?
You should carry out PAT testing…
As often as is necessary to prevent danger, whilst being reasonable and practical – e.g. testing an appliance every week is sufficient to prevent danger but isn’t reasonable and practical.
By doing a risk assessment we can determine how often is necessary whilst being reasonable and practical; such as every year. Annual PAT tests in a small business may be reasonable and practical to prevent danger, but is it appropriate? Well, make sure your insurance doesn’t require annual tests first, and if not, you can assess the risk appropriate. For example power tools on a building site will need testing more often than annual, but a computer on a desk in an office probably won’t need testing as often. More information is available on our PAT testing frequency page.
Who can do PAT?
Someone who has enough knowledge or experience to avoid danger; someone deemed competent to do so.
The duty holder of an organisation must decide who they deem competent and what evidence of knowledge or experience they require;
Competence is dependent on many factors, such environment and equipment types.
HSE Guidance states that the scope of technical knowledge or experience should include:
- adequate knowledge of electricity
- adequate knowledge of the electrical work being carried out
- adequate understanding of the system to be worked on and practical experience of that class of system
- understanding of the hazards which may arise during the work and the precautions which need to be taken
- the ability to recognise whether it is safe for work to continue
As a PAT testing company we have to take these factors into consideration whenever we are quoting for or doing a job; if you have someone in-house or considering appointing someone in-house to do your PAT, or thinking about whether you can do PAT yourself, you need to make sure they meet these requirements for competence.
There is no single training course that can make a person ‘competent’. Competency comes from an up to date knowledge and experience, supported by evidence, that allows a duty holder to determine if someone is competent.
You’ll see one day competency courses online; they don’t cover everything you need to be competent to do PAT. We have done PAT for many years and have a huge amount of knowledge and experience, but still don’t know everything. However, there is much more chance of us being competent to PAT test your equipment than someone you appoint in-house (unless they meet all these requirements).
It’s worth remembering this important factor
If you employ a sub contractor to do your PAT, and something goes wrong, an HSE investigation will ask you as the duty holder why you deemed that contractor competent, and what evidence you have to support that.
Our engineers are experienced; they hold City and Guilds qualifications, have varying degrees of electrical training and qualifications, have different levels of experience. Some are best suited to offices whilst others operate better in industrial environments. Between us we cover most scenarios. However we also know what we are not capable of, and if the job you want doing requires something we can’t, we’re honest enough to say that upfront. Not all companies do that.
What makes a person competent to PAT?
The Electricity at Work Regulations state that… ‘no person shall be engaged in any work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger or, where appropriate, injury, unless he possesses such knowledge or experience, or is under such degree of supervision as may be appropriate having regard to the nature of the work’.
What needs PAT testing?
Electrical appliances fitted with a plug, need PAT testing. That plug could be the standard 3-pin type we all use at home on our kettles and toasters, sealed rubber plugs on our laptop chargers, iPhone USB plugs, etc. or it could be a more specialist plug, like the yellow 110v adaptors used on power tools on building sites; blue 230v adaptors used more often in factories and commercial kitchens, red 400v adaptors or even other adaptors and plugs used in the theatres. The list goes on and on, but if it plugs in, it is portable.
Some ‘fixed‘ appliances are also considered portable, such as kettles or hairdryers in hotels. They are still portable but have been secured to the mains for security or other purposes. Whilst these are still portable, they are secured to the mains supply so can’t be unplugged. They can’t be tested without being removed via their wires, from the mains, which means turning off the power and unwiring them. See below for more information on this issue that causes much discussion.