What is PAT Testing?

What is PAT testing?

This is a question many people ask. Everyone knows they need it doing but not everyone understands why.

We have had clients book us to do their PAT testing and they didn’t even know why they needed it doing.

Hopefully the information on this page will answer all the questions you have ever had about Portable Appliance Testing.

PAT testing is a part of the larger aspect of electrical inspection and testing, for checking electrical appliances are safe for continued use; similar to how a periodic inspection checks the electrical mains wiring. We can also help with your mains wiring inspections, see our EICR page for more information. 

For ease of understanding as the term ‘portable’ causes a lot of confusion – if you can’t easily move an appliance it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need testing. Portable means to unplug from the mains via a socket. More on this later. 

What’s involved in a PAT test?

The process involves a competent person (usually referred to as a PAT tester or PAT engineer) visually inspecting the plug, flexible cable and appliance to ensure they are in good, safe condition. This would usually involve opening the plug if it is the type that can be opened, to check the terminal screws and wiring inside, and to make sure the fuse is correct. If the plug is sealed, the fuse holder will be removed to check the fuse. The engineer will also check the plug pins to make sure they are correct. It is during this inspection that a lot of counterfeit electrical products are found. 

The engineer will also check the cable is correct and not damaged in any way, throughout its full length, and check the connection with the appliance. 

He (or she) will also check the appliance to make sure it is secure, has appropriate guards and is being used appropriately. 

If any repairs are required they will be carried out. If you use us, for standard equipment operating up to 230v (not including 110v equipment) and 13amps, we will repair automatically and supply replacement plugs and fuses for free – some companies charge for them. 

When the engineer is satisfied that the appliance is visually safe he will then connect the appliance to a PAT testing machine, and carry out a sequence of tests appropriate to the appliance makeup. This can including verifying that the earth continuity (grounding) and the insulation makeup between current carrying parts and any exposed metal that could be touched, is sound; and for earthed leads, a polarity test is usually carried out. 

If an appliance fails any part of the inspection and or test, and can’t be repaired by the engineer, the appliance will fail the test. The engineer will then guide you on what action to take next.

On completion of the tests, if the appliance passes, it will be labelled appropriately with a PASS label, like in the image above. Each label carries an ID number which is recorded and logged, so that when you get your PAT report it itemises the results directly to the appliance, using the ID number. 

Back at our office we use the results to create the PAT Test Certificate Report that we issue to you as soon as possible.

PAT testing is widely regarded as the number one solution for ensuring electrical equipment is maintaining safe standards for continued use; which is a requirement of the Electricity at Work Regulations

Which means you getting your equipment PAT tested is the number one solution for you as it helps you comply with the regulations. 

How often you get PAT testing done depends on your own risk assessment, the recommendations of the HSE and the guidance of your PAT engineer, as a competent person following the IET’s Code of Practice guidance.

  • The PAT test is an inspection of an electrical appliance to check it is safe to use. The aim is to reduce the chances of electrical accidents occuring in the workplace.
  • A full PAT test should include both a visual inspection and tests using specialist PAT testing equipment, possibly including earth continuity, lead polarity, and insulation resistance checks. 
  • Every appliance that passes will be labelled with a ‘Passed’ pat testing label
  • Every appliance that fails will be labelled with a ‘failed’ label
  • You, the client, will be provided with a record of the test results; usually called the PAT Testing Certificate.

Not all electrical items need to be PAT tested.  We explain more in the section ‘Which items should be PAT tested?’ further down this page.


What does P.A.T. stand for? 

P.A.T. stands for ‘Portable Appliance Testing

Portable Appliance Testing is a process carried out on all electrical appliances fitted with a plug that can be plugged in to a wall socket outlet. 

A portable appliance is portable from the mains power by unplugging it – you don’t need to be able to carry it

Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

The term, PAT testing, is not a legal requirement.. however..

UK regulations require businesses to maintain safe electrical equipment AND to ensure the safety of employees and other users

The process of PAT Testing is the most effective way to confirm electrical equipment is safe, which is why it is carried out. 

PAT testing is now the standard method for meeting the legal requirements. 

These are just 4 of the legal requirements for businesses, in reference to the use of electrical equipment at work:

–   The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
–   The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
–   The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
–   The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Will I get into trouble if I don’t meet the legal requirements?

It depends on the situation; the penalty to not adhering to legal obligations on electrical equipment can be as high as being sent to prison or very large fines, as electricity is very dangerous. 

Whats a PAT test?

A PAT test is a test carried out on a portable appliance – a portable appliance is an electrical appliance portable from the mains by being unplugged.