What is PAT testing?

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use.

Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

Under current health and safety regulations, electrical appliances must be maintained in a safe condition to prevent hazards, danger, injury and damage. For employers, landlords and the self-employed, this means ensuring that all electrical equipment provided in the course of their business is safe and properly maintained.

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There is however no prescription in law as to what specifically needs to be done – what, who and when – in order to be compliant. This also means is no legal requirement stipulating PAT testing must be carried out – but it is accepted as the most effective way to meet the health and safety duties by identifying defects and maintaining equipment for safe usage.

As such, the HSE expect PAT testing to be used in order to comply with:

1. Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974

2. The Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989:

“As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.”

“Every work activity, including operation, use and maintenance of a system and work near a system, shall be carried out in such a manner as not to give rise, so far as is reasonably practicable, to danger.”

“Any equipment provided under these Regulations for the purpose of protecting persons at work on or near electrical equipment shall be suitable for the use for which it is provided, be maintained in a condition suitable for that use, and be properly used.”

3. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations of 1998

4. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1999

“Every employer shall make suitable assessment of the risks to health and safety of their employees to which they are exposed whilst at work and the risk to the health and safety of persons not in their employment arising of or in connection with the conduct by them of their undertaking.”

For the same reasons, PAT testing is also generally a requirement under insurance policies.

What are the benefits of PAT testing?

Faults in electrical equipment can arise through deterioration, use and age. Left unchecked and unrepaired, they can lead to safety hazards and risks, injury and damage, and potential penalties for breaching H&S regulations.

Some defects are only identifiable by testing, others by visual inspection, others requiring a combination of both.

PAT testing combines both visual examinations with testing performed by competent and qualified electrical engineers. The frequency of testing should be determined by the type of equipment and the environment in which it is being used.

What happens if I don’t comply with H&S regulations?

Failing to comply with H&S regulations can result in hefty penalties, including thousands of pounds in fines and/or prison sentences.

Failure to carry out PAT testing in itself is not an offence. PAT helps you to protect against breaches by ensuring continued compliance with the regulations. Strong record keeping of PAT testing systems and processes can also provide evidence against any allegations of negligence or breach of duty.

How often should equipment be tested?

Again, there is no specific rule on how often electrical equipment is to be inspected or tested, either visually or through testing. Maintenance schedules should be determined by the type of appliance and how it is used.

Regular visual inspections should also form part of this maintenance schedule.

Who should carry out PAT testing?

PAT testing should be carried out by a competent person with the right equipment to do the tests and a sufficient level of knowledge and experience to use the test equipment properly and to understand the test results.

PAT testing labelling & record keeping

The HSE’s Memorandum of Guidance on these regulations advises that records are kept throughout the equipment working life.

Retaining records of PAT testing and inspections and labelling equipment after it has been tested can help as part of ongoing maintenance and risk management. A failed asset should have clear identification that it has failed.

The following records should be established and maintained:

  • A register of all equipment.
  • A record of formal and combined visual examinations and electrical tests.
  • A register of all faulty equipment.
  • A repair register.

Testing new & hired electrical equipment

Visual checks on new electrical appliances are advised to ensure there is no damage.

It is strongly recommended that when hiring electrical equipment, visual examinations are carried out to ensure it remains safe to use throughout the hire period.

Do you need help with PAT testing?

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.