PAT Testing Frequency (Best Practice Guide)
The frequency of PAT testing will determined by a number of factors, including the risk of both the operating environment and all the electrical items within.
Every environment carries specific risks. Hotels for example will require relatively frequent PAT testing to maintain the safety of electrical equipment made available for use by guests, such as desk lamps, hairdryers and televisions. A small office accessed only by a handful of employees and which contains standard computer equipment and kitchen equipment will be considered a much lower risk than say a factory or construction environment, where large volumes of specialist electrical tools and equipment are in use on a daily basis.
It’s important to ensure you are conducting PAT testing on a sufficiently regular basis. Where an employer does not maintain electrical items, and by extension health and safety standards at work, they run the risk of prosecution, unlimited fines and up to 2 years’ imprisonment.
How to comply with PAT electrical safety regulations
Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the most effective way for employers to check that electrical appliances and equipment at work are maintained in a safe condition.
A portable appliance is any electrical item with an attached plug, or one that can be attached (for instance, a charging lead for a wireless power tool), which uses an electrical socket.
A PAT test certificate demonstrates that the electrical items in a workplace or belonging to a business have passed a visual inspection and PAT testing. It may be recorded in physical paper form or in digital format.
A PAT test certificate covers all the electrical items owned by a business or present at one site. The form that PAT test certificates take varies. Some will include the entirety of the test and detail:
- the business which owns the electrical items
- where the electrical items are located (address)
- an entry for each electrical item with an indication of whether it passed or failed the test
- a re-test date for each electrical item
- the person or company who carried out the PAT test
Other PAT test certificates will simply state the company that carried out the test, the business and location, the inspection date, number of electrical items tested and text to the effect that the PAT testing has been carried out. A detailed report outlining the individual test results for each electrical item is then provided separate to the PAT test certificate.
The length of a PAT test certificate could range from 3 months (in an extremely high risk scenario) to 1 year where the level of risk is lower.
PAT testing frequency: How long does a PAT certificate last?
The length of time that a PAT certificate is valid for will depend wholly on the level of risk posed by both the workplace and the electrical items themselves.
Risk in the workplace
This will vary greatly depending on the nature of the workplace, the actions carried out there, level of staffing, substances stored and used on site, and contact with the general public.
For instance, shops, offices and hotels present a low risk, whereas construction sites, by comparison, carry an extremely high risk.
Risk posed by electrical items
Electrical items are categorised in two ways. Firstly, they are categorised into three classes.
Class 1 electrical items have a basic level of insulation and are wholly reliant on earthing for protection. This class includes desktop computers, fridges and electric heaters.
Class 2 electrical items have extra insulation which makes them safer than items in Class 1 because they are not only reliant on earthing for protection. This class includes televisions, drills and hairdryers.
Class 3 electrical items are the safest category because they are low voltage items, and include mobile phone chargers, laptops and torches.
Secondly, electrical appliances and equipment are split into:
- Fixed (electrical items which are fixed in place)
- Stationary (electrical items which generally remain in one place)
- T. (for instance, desktop computers and monitors)
- Moveable (electrical items under 18 kg which generally remain in one place but can be moved easily)
- Portable (electrical items which are intended to be moved whilst connected to an electrical supply)
- Cables and chargers
Fixed, stationary and IT electrical appliances and equipment carry a low risk.
Moveable electrical items carry a low to medium risk.
Portable items, and cables and chargers are all medium risk.
The handheld category is high risk and includes electrical items such as electrical drills and hairdryers.
Further to this, when considering the risk factor of any electrical item, an employer or competent person should also consider the manufacturer’s recommendations, the age of the item, frequency of use, past repairs or alterations, and each individual item’s history.
How do you get a PAT test certificate?
There are no set rules on exactly what PAT testing records, including PAT test certificates, should be retained by employers or what format they should be recorded in, whether that is a paper format or a digital one.
PAT test carried out by a member of staff
Where the electrical items and workplace are low risk, the employer may appoint a member of staff to be the ‘competent person’ responsible for carrying out the PAT testing at work.
Anyone appointed as the ‘competent person’, however, should be knowledgeable of electricity, with experience of electrical work, and know how to carry out a visual inspection and PAT test of electrical items, including the risks involved and fitting precautions to take.
Where a member of staff carries out the PAT test, the choice on how to maintain PAT testing records and the format in which the PAT test certificate will be produced is down to the employer.
Before the PAT test takes place, the competent person should have a list of all the electrical items to be inspected, with room for notes on findings, details of whether the item has passed or failed, and steps to be taken to rectify any failings.
Once the PAT testing has been carried out on all relevant electrical items, the PAT certificate can be produced from purchased paper or downloadable templates. Alternatively, there are online PAT testing systems that can be used to store PAT testing results.
PAT test carried out by a professional
Should you use a professional electrician or electrical engineer, they will generally supply you with your PAT test certificate once the testing is complete.
What if a PAT test certificate has expired or there is no certificate at all?
There is no legal requirement to carry out PAT testing, or to hold PAT test certificates, so where a PAT test certificate ceases to be valid or where an employer doesn’t have a PAT test certificate, no laws are being broken as long as all electrical items at work are being maintained to a standard that is acceptable to health and safety legislation.
Is a PAT test certificate a legal requirement?
There is no legal requirement that PAT tests should be carried out on work-related electrical appliances and equipment but as part of the employer’s obligation to maintain health and safety standards for their workforce, they must ensure that all electrical items at work are maintained at a safe standard as a precaution against incidents that may lead to employees or members of the general public being harmed, in accordance with the following legislation:
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
PAT test certificates provide evidence that the employer has done their best to safeguard their workplace, workforce and the general public by testing their electrical equipment and appliances on a regular basis in fitting with each electrical item.
Such evidence can be used:
- to demonstrate to the Health and Safety Executive that the employer has upheld health and safety legislation
- to defend against claims or prosecution that may result from a work-related incident
- to present to the business’ insurer to indicate the level of risk involved in the workplace
Do you need help with PAT testing?
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute direct advice.