Take a minute to look around and count all the electrical appliances you can see. From kettles you used to boil water for a cuppa to electric drills to computer printers. Portable electrical appliances are part of all of our working lives.
While we often don’t realise it, this equipment can be hazardous – causing both electric shocks and fires in the workplace. Every employer has a legal duty to ensure electrical equipment is in working condition. PAT testing is recommended.
But what is PAT testing and is it necessary? This blog will explain what it is and why it’s important to keep portable electrical appliances tested and well maintained.
What Is PAT Testing?
Portable appliance testing (referred to as PAT or PAT Testing) is an inspection of electrical appliances to see if they’re safe to use. A PAT test aims to prevent electrical incidents such as fires, burns and electric shocks. These incidents in the workplace can cause physical injuries and property damage.
A portable appliance test combines a recorded visual inspection with testing of the electrical equipment using special testing devices. This is why PAT Testing can also be referred to as Combined Inspections and Tests.
What Needs to be Tested?
Any piece of portable electrical equipment needs to be PAT tested. Suppose it has a flexible wire or connects to a power supply via a cable. In that case, it counts as a portable appliance.
Portable electrical equipment includes:
- Desktop computers
Larger pieces of equipment like fridges, photocopiers, vending machines and washing machines also count as portable electrical equipment.
Wireless appliances like tablets and mobile phones don’t need to be tested but their battery chargers do.
What Does the Law Say?
PAT testing is not a legal requirement. The Electricity at Work Regulations state that you must maintain electrical equipment, and ensure it doesn’t pose a risk to anyone. This requirement is mirrored in other health and safety legislation including:
- Health and Safety at Work Act
- Management of Health & Safety at Work
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
The regulations don’t specify how you should meet your legal duty to ensure equipment is safe. However, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, or IET Code of Practice outlines guidelines for using the PAT testing process to ensure equipment is safe.
The IET Code of Practice is not a law, there is in fact no legal requirement to follow the code of practice or conduct pat. However, it is understood that if you are conducting pat, you are following best practice and meeting your legal obligations.
Types of Inspections & Testing
Let’s now consider several types of inspection and what PAT testing is.
Anyone who uses portable electrical equipment should be trained to conduct a pre-use inspection every time they use it. This should be a general inspection to identify any obvious faults or problems.
A primary check will be looking out for signs of damage, cracks in the casing, burn marks and frayed cables – anything that looks unusual. Are the wires trapped under desks or pieces of office furniture? Are there any water hazards around the equipment?
Users must be made aware that if a fault is identified, the equipment must not be used. Put it out of use until a competent engineer can take a look at it.
Formal Visual Inspection
A formal visual inspection may need to be conducted more frequently than combined inspections and tests. They should always be recorded. It can be done be a member of staff who has been trained or an external contractor. This step can flag up most problems.
Any equipment being inspected must be turned off and unplugged before you start. Then have a good look at the following:
- The plug – for signs of damage including, burns, bent pins, cracks and incorrect wiring
- The cable – check for cuts, fraying, abrasions
- The appliance – are there any cracks, burn marks, signs of corrosion or wear and tear?
- The mains socket isn’t part of the PAT test but it should be inspected. Look for any cracks, loose fittings and signs of over-heating
- RCD (Residual Current Device) – press the ‘test’ button to check it works. Check the operating current and look for any signs of damage
- Environmental issues – overloaded extension leads, trip hazards, fire risks and water hazards need to be checked
The HSE’s guide, Maintaining Portable Electrical Equipment, will give you more details on how to carry out checks and what to look out for.
This step is done using a portable appliance tester. It’s only carried out by someone who’s competent to do so, has been adequately trained and has the correct testing equipment.
They must do a visual and a manual examination. A portable appliance testing device should be used. Earth continuity, insulation resistance and lead polarity must be tested. The testing device will show if an appliance passes or fails the PAT test.
If an appliance fails, it must be taken out of use until it can be repaired or discarded. If repaired, it would need to pass another PAT test before it’s safe to use again.
If it passes, a pass sticker that shows the pass date must be attached to the appliance.
Who Should Do the Testing?
PAT testing and any electrical maintenance work should only be carried out by someone trained and qualified to do so. Staff members can be trained to do PAT testing but ensure that the training is refreshed and the testing equipment used is well maintained.
What About Homeworkers?
As an employer, you can’t dictate how your employees do things at home, but you can consider their safety and guide them.
Now, this doesn’t mean going to each employee’s home and conduct PAT on all of their equipment. Instead, make sure that any company-issued equipment given to them has been tested. Keep a record of when you test so you can coordinate a re-test for when they are due to visit the office.
Develop A New Skill – Learn How to PAT Test
Our online PAT training course is designed to provide you with all of the knowledge you need to conduct these tests yourself. The course looks at the legal requirements for conducting PAT, what types of equipment require PAT and pass/fail criteria. The course walks you through the steps of conducting such a test, step by step.
To find out more, contact us today.