How often should you test electrical equipment? 

For your reference this isn’t a legal pitch; I am not a lawyer or solicitor, or a health and safety consultant. I am a business owner and PAT engineer trying to offer a bit of help to you, my clients. 
This page is intended to give clients some guidance. 
In workplaces in the UK, legally you are required to ensure that electrical equipment maintains appropriate safety standards to reduce the chances of someone getting an electric shock or the appliance overheating and catching fire. 

You would do that in two ways

Reduce the chances of electric shock

Make sure equipment maintains safety standards –

  • if a fuse blows, by replacing it with the right replacement
  • if a plug gets damaged, replace it with the right replacement
  • if a flex gets damaged, repair it correctly 
  • if the appliance itself gets broken or stops working get it repaired by a competent person
If in doubt, don’t do it yourself, get a competent person to do it. 

Reduce the chances of fire

Fires are often the result of misuse of electrical equipment so make sure you use equipment the way it is intended to be:
  • Don’t overload sockets
  • Only use extension leads if you really have to
  • Avoid using those cube socket blocks at all times
  • If using cable reels make sure it is a temporary measure and fully unwound
  • If using a portable heater don’t think of it as a long term solution
  • Make sure the supply can handle the power of the appliance it is feeding
  • Don’t daisy chain extension leads

Maintaining Safe Applainces

You are legally required to maintain safe equipment; how you do that is up to you. You may employ a handyman for example. The fact you have used us to do PAT testing for you we are now going to assume that PAT (portable appliance testing) is your chosen method for maintaining safe equipment. 
When we inspect your equipment we check the plug, inside and out, we check the terminal screws, the wiring, the fuse, and the flexible cable; we also check the appliance. If any parts are faulty we repair them; if they can’t be repaired by us we fail them and recommend further action. This is preventative maintenance – maintenance to prevent accident or incident, and by doing so you are complying with your obligations. 
Now, to continue complying you need to get this process repeated at intervals in keeping with the risk of the appliance, its use and the environment it is being used in. To do that you need to get a person competent in electrical safety (and ideally fire prevention too) to conduct a risk assessment on the appliances. The results will show what needs doing and how often. A consultant to do this would charge around three to five hundred pounds, maybe more. It would need to be re-evaluated on a regular basis, which could every year. 
An alternate option is regular PAT Tests; some people find the easiest option is to get equipment tested annually, that way they are keeping on top of things in an accepted manner – most insurers are happy with this option. Most people prefer this option too as it gives them peace of mind, but also is usually the cheapest option! 
Another option is to get the PAT company to do the risk assessment on their behalf. Although you aren’t going to get the documentation you’d get from a consultant, for what is usually a small admin fee the PAT engineer will do an assessment whilst conducting the tests to determine appropriate intervals until the next tests, which usually fall in line with HSE guidance. This is something we can do for you and recommend as best practice. 

As a standard rule unless you tell us otherwise we assume your PAT testing is going to be done annually, and so will remind you in about 11 months that your PAT testing is due for renewal within the next month or so. So you don’t need to do anything else until then. If however you would rather it be done more in keeping with the risk, then we need to organise that risk assessment. That can be done by you organising it yourself, or we can recommend a health and safety consultant, or we can do our own when we do the next phase of tests. When we do it, all we do is add on a small fee, usually for about an hours work, to put the retest periods in place based on our assessment of the risks when we do the tests. This can result in some equipment, often IT equipment, being put on a longer interval between tests than other equipment. 

If you want to talk to us about these options further, get in touch with Richard by the usual methods. 

Some useful hints to maintain safe equipment

Use equipment as it was intended to be used by the manufacturer

  • If equipment becomes faulty or damaged stop using it and get it repaired
  • If staff bring personal electrical equipment to work – get it tested first
  • If you give staff work equipment to use away from work – make sure it is tested first 
  • If contractors come on site with electrical equipment – make sure it has been tested before they’re allowed to plug it in

Remember this: if someone uses faulty electrical equipment in your workplace, and it catches fire; you are responsible, and possibly worse, your insurance may not cover the claim.