Portable Appliance Testing

How often should you test your electrical equipment?

There are many common myths about portable appliance testing (PAT).   Find out the key facts about the inspection and testing of portable electrical equipment from MMV Contracting Limited.

Electrical equipment should be visually checked to spot early signs of damage. Equipment should be tested sufficiently enough that there is little chance the equipment will become dangerous between tests. Equipment used in a harsh environment should be tested more frequently.

It is good practice to make a decision on how often each piece of equipment should be checked.  After you have decided the frequency, make sure checks are carried out accordingly and record the results. You should change how often you carry out checks, according to the number and severity of faults found.

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances to ensure they are safe to use. Most electrical defects can be found by visual examination but some may only be found by testing. However, it is essential to understand that visual examination is an essential part of the process

A relatively brief user check (based upon simple training assisted by the use of a checklist) can be a useful part of any electrical maintenance regime. However, more formal visual inspection and testing by a competent person may also be required at appropriate intervals.  This does depend upon the type of equipment and where it is used.

Electricity At Work Regulations 1989

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.  (ie they don’t make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement.  Nor is it a legal requirement to undertake this annually).

The frequency of inspection and testing depends upon the type of equipment and the environment it is used in. For example, a power tool used on a construction site should be examined more frequently than a lamp in a hotel bedroom.

There is no legal requirement to label equipment that has been inspected or tested, or a requirement to keep records. However, a record and /or labelling can be a useful management tool for monitoring and demonstrating due diligence.

New equipment should be supplied in a safe condition and not require a formal portable appliance inspection or test. However, a simple visual check is recommended to verify the item is not damaged.

The person doing testing work needs to competent to do it. In many low-risk environments, a sensible (competent) member of staff can undertake visual inspections with 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
  • the ability to properly understand the test results

Is portable appliance testing compulsory?

No. The law simply requires an employer to ensure that 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. If it is used regularly and moved a lot e.g. a kettle, testing (with visual checks) can be an important part of an effective maintenance regime. This will give employers confidence that they are doing what is necessary to help them meet their legal duties.

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The Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

HSE provides guidance on how to maintain equipment including the use of PAT. See this link to the HSE page.

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