What is PAT testing?

PAT testing stands for Portable Appliance Testing. It
is a process that involves the inspection and testing of electrical appliances
to ensure that they are safe to use. As of 2021 the term PAT has been
replaced by the more accurate title of “In-service portable electrical
appliance testing”.

  1. Why is PAT testing important? PAT testing is important for several reasons. Firstly, it helps
    to ensure the safety of your employees, customers, and visitors by identifying potential
    hazards before they can cause harm. Secondly, it can help to prevent electrical fires and
    damage to equipment.
  2. How often do I need to have my appliances tested? The frequency of PAT testing depends on
    the type of appliance and how often it is used. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
    recommends that portable electrical appliances in the workplace should be tested at least
    once every 12 months.
  3. What appliances need to be tested? Any portable electrical appliance that is connected to the
    mains supply by a plug and socket should be tested. This includes items such as kettles,
    computers, power tools, and photocopiers.
  4. Who can carry out PAT testing? PAT testing can be carried out by a competent person with
    sufficient knowledge, training, and experience. This can include an in-house maintenance
    team or an external contractor.
  5. What happens during a PAT test? During a PAT test, a technician will visually inspect the
    appliance for any signs of damage, wear and tear or loose connections. They will also use
    specialist equipment to test the electrical safety of the appliance.
  6. How long does PAT testing take? The time it takes to complete PAT testing depends on the
    number of appliances that need to be tested. A small business with only a few appliances
    might take only a few hours, while a larger business with many appliances could take
    several days.
  7. What happens if an appliance fails the test? If an appliance fails the test, it should be
    removed from use immediately and repaired or replaced. The technician will provide advice
    on the appropriate course of action.
  8. Do I need to keep records of my PAT testing? Yes, it is important to keep records of all PAT
    testing carried out, including the date of the test, the results, and any actions taken. These
    records can be used as evidence of compliance with health and safety regulations.
  9. How much does PAT testing cost? The cost of PAT testing varies depending on the number
    of appliances that need to be tested and the location of the business. A reputable PAT testing
    company will provide a quote based on your specific requirements.

Electrical equipment testing (often still referred to as PAT testing) is the in-service inspection and testing of any electrical appliance or equipment, to ensure its ongoing safety for use, as set out in the IET Code of Practice for the In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment 5th Edition.

This testing ensures the appliances and equipment are safe and helps to prevent electrical accidents in the workplace. The testing should be done on a routine basis and clear and concise records should be documented.

Electrical equipment can become damaged, develop faults, or the parts may deteriorate. This can happen for a number of reasons and, if not identified, can have serious consequences. Using electrical appliances or equipment that is not completely safe can result in serious injuries or even death.

A PAT test checks electrical items to ensure they are safe to use. It should include both a visual examination and a more in-depth examination. The majority of electrical defects can be detected during the visual examination. However, some electrical safety defects can only be found when the appliance is tested using specialist PAT testing equipment. The in-depth testing should include earth continuity, lead polarity, and insulation resistance checks.

Once a PAT test has been completed, the PAT testing professional will be able to make a recommendation regarding the best course of action. This may include repairing the appliance or replacing all or part of the appliance.

A PAT testing specialist will be able to perform safety checks on a large variety of electrical equipment and appliances.

Is there a legal requirement for PAT testing?

PAT testing is not currently a legal requirement. However, legislation in the UK states that all businesses and workplaces must maintain all electrical equipment in a safe condition. Furthermore, businesses also have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their employees, tenants, and the general public.

Current legislation relating to the maintenance of electrical equipment in the workplace includes:

  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

PAT testing is the most efficient way of ensuring that a business is adhering to legislation. Indeed, it is the most favoured electrical testing system in the UK. If legislation regarding electrical safety is not adhered to, businesses in the UK can face an unlimited fine or even imprisonment.

Testing electrical equipment can be relatively quick. Each piece of equipment will be rated with either a pass or a fail. If the equipment passes the test, it will be labelled with a safety sticker that includes information such as when the testing was completed, as well as a barcode for tracking.

Although PAT testing labels and documented records of PAT testing are not legal requirements, it is highly recommended that businesses implement these measures. It helps to ensure the effectiveness of the electrical equipment safety scheme and ensures maintenance schedules are adhered to. Establishing a clear record of equipment maintenance always demonstrates compliance with electric safety legislation.

What PAT testing prevents and detects

An in-depth PAT test focuses on three main things:

Earth continuity

This tests the resistance of the protective earth of the electrical appliance or the cable/wire. Any accessible earthed part of the appliance and the earth pin of the plug will be tested. The earth continuity test is designed to test the connection between the earth pin and the case of the appliance.

A good connection is usually one that has a resistance of fewer than 0.1 ohms. An appliance that scores well in the earth continuity test has a vastly reduced likelihood of producing an electrical shock. To do this test, you will need a PAT testing device. Earth continuity tests are usually carried out on Class 1 electrical appliances.

Lead polarity

Most PAT testing machines also come with a lead testing facility. You will usually first carry out a visual inspection of any leads, cables, cords, or wires. If you are satisfied that they pass the visual inspection, you will then use the PAT testing device.

The polarity test will determine whether the Live and Neutral are connected correctly to the corresponding terminals in the socket. If they are reversed, this means the electrical appliance is live, even if it is switched off. If a fault then develops with the appliance, the likelihood of a fire developing is much greater.

Insulation resistance

Insulation resistance tests check that there is adequate insulation between the live parts of the appliance and the parts that can be physically touched by the user. The insulation that surrounds the live parts of the appliance must have a high insulation level.

Insulation resistance tests are usually carried out on Class 1 and Class 2 electrical appliances. It is important that the individual carrying out the PAT test understands the difference in how to test insulation resistance in Class 1 compared to Class 2 appliances.

PAT testing is essential for businesses in the UK. Ensuring that electrical equipment is properly maintained can help prevent accidents in the workplace. Dorset Fire Protection stated that a quarter of all fires in the workplace are caused by faulty or incorrect use of electrics. This amounts to nearly 6,000 fires every year! This could be as a result of electrical faults or because of electrical equipment being misused.

The majority of these fires are completely preventable, and ensuring electrical equipment is maintained and is safe to use is a key way for businesses to prevent electrical fires. Not only can fires cause loss of life or serious injury, but they can also destroy equipment and premises.

According to Fire & Electrical Safety Ltd, More than 1,000 workplace accidents and 30 fatalities caused by electrical shocks and burns are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) every year in the UK. The main causes of these injuries and fatalities are contact with underground or overhead cables, faulty electrical appliances, and poor electrical installation.

When you factor in accidents caused by faulty equipment in rented properties, this figure grows exponentially. Both businesses and landlords are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees, tenants, and the public. Ensuring all equipment is adequately PAT tested will help to prevent accidents and injuries. For more information about electrical safety for landlords, consult our knowledge base.

Having an up-to-date PAT test on equipment will also provide you with some legal protection if an accident or injury was to occur. Providing evidence that all equipment has been correctly maintained and has been deemed safe by a qualified PAT inspector could prevent you from being accused of negligence or failure to follow health and safety requirements.

What requires PAT testing?

Portable appliances that may require PAT testing include any equipment that can connect to a fixed installation or generator. This includes appliances that connect using a cable, socket, or plug. Any electrical appliances or equipment that is portable qualifies for PAT testing.

Furthermore, if your business uses any appliances that you would not consider portable but are plugged into a power source, these also will need PAT testing. This may include a dishwasher, industrial machinery, or a built-in refrigerator.

There are currently no regulations that stipulate which items should be PAT tested. Portable appliances are not necessarily moveable, and this is a common mistake many businesses make when performing PAT tests. Any object or appliance that plugs into a socket should be PAT tested, regardless of its size.

There are two main factors you should consider when deciding whether an appliance or object needs to be PAT tested:

  • The category of the electrical item.
  • The class of the electrical item.

There are several categories of electrical equipment that should undergo PAT testing

There are three different electrical classes:

Class 1:

This is the most high-risk and potentially dangerous class. Class 1 items usually have only basic insulation and instead rely on the earth for additional protection. Class 1 items will require a complete PAT test.

Examples of Class 1 appliances include:

  • Industrial machinery.
  • Vending machines.
  • Washing machines/Tumble dryers.
  • Dishwashers.
  • Refrigerators/Freezers.
  • Microwaves.
  • Toasters.
  • Kettles.
  • Phone, laptop, and tablet chargers.
  • Desktop computers.

Class 2:

This type of appliance will have additional insulation and does not rely on the earth. There is usually less risk associated with them. Class 2 items will require a minimum of a PAT insulation test but will often not require a complete PAT test.

Examples of Class 2 appliances include:

  • Blenders and food mixers.
  • Hairdryers and hair straighteners.
  • Lamps.
  • Televisions.
  • CD players, DVD players, and radios.
  • Lawnmowers.

Class 3:

This type of appliance is low voltage. Items categorised as Class 3 are usually low risk and the least dangerous. The appliance itself may not require an in-depth PAT test, although any chargers, wires, or cables will likely need to be tested.

Examples of Class 3 appliances include:

  • Cameras.
  • Torches.
  • Laptops.
  • Mobile phones.

Electrical items purchased in the UK should have symbols to identify what electrical class they are. It is recommended to consult this symbol to help you determine the level of PAT test it requires. For more information about understanding electrical symbols, consult our knowledge base.