Guide to PAT testing

Portable Appliance Testing is an imperative part of electrical health and safety policy, ensuring that hand-held appliances are safe to use.

Although PAT testing is not specifically required by law in itself, the Electricity at Work Regulations place responsibility on employees and employers to maintain and check their equipment to prevent danger. The regularity of these checks is not detailed also, although a risk-based assessment should be made in each individual case for inspection and testing.

For example, electrical items that are used on a regular basis, i.e. a kettle or iron, should be examined more frequently. Visual checks and basic operational tests are the preliminary tests which every employee can carry out. Use a checklist to help with this.

The Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) places this obligation for testing in the following circumstances:

• Where portable appliances are used by employees.
• Where the public may use portable appliances in establishments such as schools, hospitals, shops and hotels etc.
• Where appliances are repaired or serviced.
• Where appliances are supplied or hired.

What is a Portable Appliance?

A portable appliance is generally considered to be transferable, hand-held object under the weight of 18kg which has the capability of being electrically powered. Commonly, these sorts of items will be toasters, vacuum cleaners, food mixers, hair dryers, etc.

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According to the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) their definition of a portable appliance is “any electrical item, which can or is intended, to be moved whilst connected to an electrical supply”.

Frequency of Testing

Although the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 state that any portable appliance with the potential to cause serious injury is looked after in an efficient manner. However, there is no actual legal requirement to undertake testing during a frequent time period.

The Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations suggests that “regular inspection of equipment is an essential part of any preventative maintenance program” which is vague presumably as each portable appliance is different from the next. Common sense and rational judgement must be made about the frequency of testing; the following factors of such include:

The environment it is used in – equipment installed in a busy area such as the kitchen will require more attention than items such as a sparsely used lamp.

The users – if users of an appliance report any minor or potential problems then action must be taken quickly.

The type of equipment – hand-held appliances will generally encounter more wear and tear than fixed ones. There is a guide and range of equipment online.

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Assessment of Risk

Starting with a Base Risk of 0 points, add:

2 points if the appliance is to be used in a wet or corrosive environment, or uses water or a corrosive substance in its operation.
2 points if the appliance has a flexible supply cord that is subject to flexing or that is subject to harsh treatment.
1 point if the appliance has a heating element OR 240V electric motor.

If the total is 2 points or more it is classified as group A, High Risk

If the total is 1 point it is classified as group B, Medium Risk

If the total is 0 points it is classified as group C, Low Risk