FIVE FACTS ABOUT PORTABLE APPLIANCE TESTING (PAT)
Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the term to describe the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use. There are many myths around PAT testing and its frequency, here are answers to five common queries.
1: Portable Electrical Devices must be tested every year, is this correct?
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. However, the Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently (i.e. inspection or testing of electrical appliances isn’t a legal requirement, nor do they make it a legal requirement to undertake this annually).
2: How frequently do Electrical Appliances need to be tested then?
The frequency of testing depends on the equipment and the environment it is used in. For suggested frequencies of inspection and testing take a look at the HSE Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment leaflet [ http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg107.htm ]
3. Is PAT compulsory?
No. The law simply requires an employer to ensure 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, considering the type of equipment and what it is being used for. The HSE provides guidance on how to maintain equipment including the use of PAT.
4. Does new equipment need to be tested?
New equipment should be supplied in a safe condition and not require a formal PAT, however, a simple visual check is recommended to verify the item is not damaged.
5. Does PAT need to be carried out by an electrician?
The person doing testing work needs to be competent to do it. In many low-risk environments, a sensible (competent) member of staff can undertake visual inspections if they have enough knowledge and training. However, when undertaking combined inspection and testing, a greater level of knowledge and experience is needed, and the person will need: the right equipment to do the tests, the ability to use this test equipment properly and the ability to properly understand the test results.
For more information on PAT, visit the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/faq-portable-appliance-testing.htm