PAT testing regulations – FAQs

While there are no specific PAT testing regulations, Portable Appliance Testing has become the standard method for ensuring compliance with UK legislation on electrical equipment safety.

PAT testing assesses portable equipment through a combination of electrical testing and visual examination. Used across workplace environments such as commercial, industrial and public-access areas, PAT testing will help you to ensure that the portable appliances in your business are safe and well maintained, and in doing so that you are complying with PAT testing regulations.

What are PAT testing regulations?

PAT testing regulations do not exist as a separate or distinct set of rules. Instead, they form part of wider, extensive guidance relating to electrical safety in the workplace, contained within:

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

The law requires that all employers, landlords and even self-employed individuals make sure that their portable electrical appliances are safe, suitable and used for the purposes intended. These appliances should always be maintained properly and remain in good working order.

PAT testing is relied on to ensure compliance with relevant duties under this legislation through a programme of regular, routine and planned maintenance.

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Which appliances need to be tested under PAT testing regulations?

Only appliances which are portable and electronic are covered by PAT testing. There are two questions to ask to confirm if an appliance comes under PAT testing:

  1. Portable: Can you carry or roll the appliance to a different location with relative ease?
  2. Electrical: Does the appliance have to be plugged in to power it?

Good practice is to undertake an initial audit to identify all appliances within your business which are covered by PAT testing and to maintain this record, for example adding to the list as new appliances are purchased and used in the course of your business.

Who is responsible for ensuring electrical safety in the workplace?

Responsibilities for electrical equipment can fall to a number of individuals, or ‘duty holders’.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 state:

“It shall be the duty of every employer and self employed person to comply with the provisions of the Regulations as far as they relate to matters which are within their direct control. It shall be the duty of every employee while at work:

(a) to co-operate with his employer so far as is necessary to enable and duty placed on that employer by the provision of the Regulations to be complied with: and

b) to comply with the provision of these regulations in so far as they relate to matters which are within his control.”

The role of the duty holder will be determined by the specific circumstances but would generally apply to property owners, equipment owners, company owners, directors and line managers.

Duty holders should familiarise themselves with their responsibilities under the regulations in ensuring the safe operation and maintenance of electrical equipment.

Those performing the PAT checks also assume responsibilities. This could be maintenance managers carrying out visual examinations or employees operating the equipment required to monitor the equipment they use and ensure it has no obvious faults or damage.

It is likely that training will be required at both duty holder and operator level to ensure standards and responsibilities are understood and complied with, and that employees and customers are informed of the importance of reporting malfunctioning equipment in order for repairs to be carried out.

PAT testing regulations and record keeping

The legislation gives no specific prescription requiring records to be maintained for appliance inspections and testing.

However, it is best practice to have processes in place of recording all electrical risk assessments, testing, maintenance and remedial work to evidence your commitment to H&S and compliance with the regulations. Effective records will acts as evidence of testing systems and processes in response to any requests for information by regulators (or insurers).

Effective records should include:

  • Log of all portable electrical appliances to be tested.
  • Previous testing dates.
  • Frequency of inspection and testing and re-testing.
  • Details of remedial works including date of works, who performed the works, the nature of the works
  • Interpretation of the results.

Are visual checks required?

Formal visual examinations, if carried out correctly, can reveal potentially dangerous faults. Visual examination should precede electrical testing. It often reveals major defects that would not be revealed by testing alone.

Categories of in-service visual examination and electrical testing are divided into three types:

  • Operator checks
  • Formal visual examination
  • Combined visual examination and electrical testing

The visual examination of each appliance should be performed in addition to the actual PAT test by someone who is deemed ‘competent’.

Who should perform PAT testing?

Testing and inspections should be carried out be a competent person “possessing sufficient technical knowledge or experience to be capable of ensuring that injury is prevented”.

This requires test operatives to have sufficient technical knowledge and experience of:

  • The appliances and installations being tested
  • The appropriate testing methods and equipment
  • Types of damage and deterioration likely to be detected
  • Remedial works necessary to prevent or fix issues
  • Ensuring their own safety and that of others when conducting examinations eg is equipment downtime required?
  • Maintaining adequate testing records

Instructing an electrician is not, in itself, enough to comply with your duties. They must be competent, qualified and experienced in testing and inspecting, this includes use of the equipment and knowing how to carry out testing with minimal disruption to your business.

How often should PAT testing be performed?

Guidelines do not provide a strict timeframe or schedule for testing, only broad indication that equipment should be checked ‘regularly’.

This means it is for the duty holder to determine the frequency of testing to ensure compliance, ideally through a testing schedule.

A number of factors will need to be considered, which can be identified and evaluated through a risk assessment:

  • Location of the equipment
  • Equipment type and class of construction
  • Frequency of use
  • Competence of user
  • The installation method
  • Records

You may identify some appliances as requiring an annual test, others more frequent and others less. Lower risk appliances for example would usually be tested less frequently than those identified as presenting a higher risk.

In addition, the frequency of visual examinations and electrical tests should be regularly reviewed to ensure optimum and continued effectiveness.

Do you need help with PAT testing?

Electrical safety is a mandatory requirement. Effective use of PAT testing can ensure compliance, with minimal impact or disruption to your operations. For help with your PAT testing, contact Emelec’s team of experienced electrical engineers.


This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute direct advice.