Portable electrical appliances can be significant fire and health hazards if they’re not in good working order. Regular portable appliance testing, also referred to as PAT, will ensure that your portable electrical appliances are safe.
How long does PAT testing last, and what appliances require a PAT test? In this article, we look into the fine details and explain what you need to do to keep your workplace safe.
The Risks of Portable Electrical Appliances
A portable electrical appliance can be anything from a kettle in the work breakroom to a handheld drill to a bathroom hand dryer. If damaged or faulty, portable electrical appliances can be incredibly hazardous. An electrical appliance not in good order can quickly start a fire or electrocute someone.
According to UK government statistics, there were 11,916 fires in non-domestic buildings in the UK From 2021 to 2022. The leading cause of most of these fires was faulty electrical appliances and leads. In the same period, nine UK workers died due to contact with an electrical discharge. Again, defective electrical appliances were to blame for many of these deaths.
Many businesses use portable electrical appliances that are old or in bad condition. Although a quality appliance can last for years, all electrical appliances should be regularly tested to avoid the risk of fire or electrocution.
The Legal Background of PAT Testing?
Strictly speaking, a business is not legally required to conduct PAT testing. However, UK health and safety laws require business owners to ensure that the working environment is safe and that all electrical equipment is in good working order. These obligations are outlined in legislation such as:
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974
- Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)
While PAT testing is not strictly mentioned within this legislation, conducting and recording PAT will demonstrate compliance with the law. Breaching these regulations can lead to criminal charges.
How Long Does PAT Testing Last For?
How long does PAT testing last? It depends on how we interpret the question. There is no clear answer if we’re talking about how long a PAT test is valid.
The HSE recommends that PAT testing occurs at least once every twelve months. But this is a recommendation and not the rule. In reality, it’s the employer’s duty to determine the frequency based on necessity. This means consider factors such as how likely are electrical appliances to become faulty? And what would be the consequences if they did?
A PAT test should also be done whenever an appliance has been damaged or moved (like in the case of large appliances such as washing machines or fridges).
You can find guidelines on how often to conduct a PAT test in the HSE’s manual ‘Maintaining Portable Electrical Equipment.’
How long does PAT testing last in terms of the time it takes to conduct a test will depend on the type of appliance being tested, how old it is, how frequently it’s used, its condition and the skill and experience of the inspector.
PAT Stickers and PAT Certificates
All appliances that have undergone PAT testing should be marked with either a sticker or a PAT test certificate that states whether they have passed or failed. Most low-risk appliances can be stickered, while high-risk appliances should be certified by a professional technician.
The question of how long a PAT test certificate lasts or how long a PAT sticker is valid for is not defined in a strict legal sense. Many experts say that a PAT test certificate or sticker is invalid as soon as an appliance is back in use. Others say the validity lasts until the appliance becomes faulty.
It’s important to note that PAT stickers should not state when the next PAT test is due. This could accidentally result in users assuming an appliance is safe when it actually is not.
We recommend following the guidelines in the HSE’s Maintaining Portable Electrical Equipment.
Learn How to Conduct a PAT Test
Our PAT Testing training course gives trainees the skills and knowledge they need to perform PAT inspections per HSE guidelines. This covers the recorded visual inspection and the actual test using the PAT device. The course comes with a free e-Checklist outlining the PAT testing process steps.
If you complete the course, you’ll receive a downloadable, printable certificate endorsed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).