A PAT test is a routine inspection of some types of electrical appliance to check they are safe to use. Its purpose is to prevent electrical accidents in the workplace.
A full PAT test should include both a visual inspection and a more in-depth check using specialist PAT testing equipment. This test includes earth continuity, lead polarity, and insulation resistance checks.
Some appliances only need a reduced test, called a PAT insulation test.
At the end of a PAT test, every appliance should be marked ‘passed’ or ‘failed’. Ideally there should be a record of the results.
Not all electrical items need to be PAT tested.
What does PAT stand for?
PAT’ stands for ‘Portable Appliance Testing’.
There is no definition of what a ‘Portable Appliance’ is in the current legislation, however the standard interpretation is “any appliance that has a plug attached to it and plugs into a wall outlet”.
Because of this, the word ‘portable’ is a bit misleading. There are actually 7 categories of appliance which should be considered for PAT testing or, at least, visual inspections:
– Fixed appliances
– Stationary appliances
– IT appliances
– Moveable appliances
– Portable appliances
– Cables and chargers
– Hand Held appliances
Is PAT testing a legal obligation?
PAT testing is not, in itself, a legal obligation.
However, current UK legislation states that businesses must maintain electrical equipment in a safe condition.
They also have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of employees and the public.
Because PAT testing is one of the most effective ways to do this, particularly for high risk or large, complex environments, it has become a standard way of meeting this legal obligation.
Which items should be PAT tested?
There are 2 main factors which determine whether or not an item should be PAT tested:
– The electrical ‘class’ of the item
– The ‘category’ of the item
Electrical appliances are mainly categorised as Class 1, 2 or 3, with Class 1 being the most dangerous and Class 3 the least dangerous.
The class of an appliance helps determine whether it needs to be PAT tested and to what degree. Class 1 appliances need a full PAT test, Class 2 appliances need a PAT insulation test, and Class 3 appliances don’t need to be PAT tested at all.
Class 1 appliances
This type of electrical equipment has only basic insulation and relies on an earth for protection.
Class 2 appliances
This type of electrical equipment has extra insulation and so doesn’t rely on an earth for protection, which makes it safer.
Class 3 appliances
Class 3 appliances are low voltage items and are the safest class of electrical appliance. Their charging leads may need to be PAT tested.
Class 1 appliances carry this symbol:
Class 2 appliances carry this symbol:
Class 3 appliances carry this symbol:
How Often should items be PAT tested?
There are no specific rules for the frequency of PAT tests. However, the regulations say that the level of precaution taken should be ‘appropriate’ to the risk.
There are 3 main criteria which determine frequency of testing:
– the risk level of the working environment
– the electrical class of the appliance
– the category of the appliance
The Health and Safety Executive also recommends taking the following into consideration as necessary:
– manufacturer’s recommendations
– the age of the equipment
– frequency of use
– foreseeable misuse of the equipment
– effects of any modifications or repairs
– the history of the item
How do I know if my business is high, medium or low risk?
There are 3 main factors that are taken into account when assessing the electrical risk of a business for PAT testing:
1. The risk level of the environment
2. The type of equipment being used
3. Who will be interacting with the equipment
For example, in an office setting where equipment is relatively static and there is a regular team using it day to day, there is much less risk than on a construction site.
On a construction site, hand-held, potentially dangerous equipment is in regular use and groups of workers tend to switch in and out and therefore the risk is much higher.
The table below gives an idea of the likely risk level of different types of business:
What will I receive at the end of the PAT test?
Upon completion of the portable appliance inspection and testing you should receive a report that details the following as a minimum:
- An inventory containing each appliance type, name, location and description
- A full set of test results for each appliance tested
- A full list of any failed items with an explanation of their failure
- A visible pass or fail label on each appliance detailing the inspection date, next test due and the inspector’s signature.