An employer’s guide to PAT Testing

PAT Testing

As a business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities, and one big priority is the safety of your people and premises. Whatever environment your employees work in whether it’s in an office, a construction site, or a school etc, your people are likely to be using portable electrical equipment in their day-to-day work.

But how do you know that their equipment is safe to use?

The only solution to making sure your people are safe when working with electrical appliances is by carrying out a PAT Test, otherwise known as Portable Appliance Testing.

Here’s everything you need to know to keep your people safe and your business compliant.

What is PAT Testing?

PAT Testing is a series of electrical and visual inspections that determine the equipment is safe to use by your employees.

What portable electrical appliances do I have?

No matter the type or size of your business, you’ll most likely have some portable equipment that will need to be routinely PAT Tested. The equipment can range from small electrical appliances like laptops, phones, kettles, toasters, etc. to larger items like printers and photocopiers.

Although your built-in appliances like boilers, dishwashers, hand-dryers etc aren’t portable, they still need to be tested to make sure they’re safe to use but this comes under Electrical Equipment Testing (EET) which requires a different set of skills to carry out these types of inspections.

As a rule of thumb, anything that isn’t permanently wired into your electrical system must be PAT Tested.

What are my legal obligations?

Managing your electrical equipment isn’t a responsibility you can ignore. In fact, you’re legally required by the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1998 to make sure that any potential risks in work are assessed and properly managed, including your portable electrical equipment.

How often do my items need to be PAT Tested?

When determining how often your business needs to carry out its PAT Testing, you firstly need to assess the industry your business falls under, the type of electrical equipment that needs PAT Testing, and how often the equipment’s handled.

Once this has been established, you need to check which ‘class’ your appliances fall under:

  • Class 1 appliances. Does it have basic insulation? Does it rely on an earth for protection? Examples include refrigerators, microwaves, and toasters.
  • Class 2 appliances. Does it have two layers of insulation and therefore need a PAT Insulation Test? Examples include computers, photocopiers, and most plastic power tools.
  • Class 3 appliances don’t need to be PAT Tested at all because they require a lower level of voltage. Examples include torches, cameras, and mobile phone chargers.

PAT Testing frequency by business

Shops, offices, and hotels

  • Class 1 appliances such as stationery and IT equipment should be tested every four years.
  • Portable equipment like extension leads and hard drives should be tested every two years.
  • Handheld equipment should be tested every 12 months.

Education settings

  • Class 1 equipment in education settings should be PAT Tested annually.
  • Class 2 equipment should be tested every four years.

Healthcare settings

As with businesses, healthcare settings like hospitals and GP practices are required to carry out routine risk assessments and maintain any electrical equipment that could cause harm. The law doesn’t specify how often healthcare settings need to carry out their PAT Testing, but the CQC outlines that ‘Providers should decide what level of maintenance is needed according to the risk of an item becoming faulty, and how equipment is made.

Industrial and construction settings

Occupants are often working to tight schedules and regularly use a wide variety of appliances so there is an increased risk of accidents and damage. All 110V equipment used on sites should be PAT Tested every three months.

How to prepare for a PAT Test

To make sure you’re properly prepared prior to your PAT Test, you’ll need to carry out a visual inspection on all your electrical equipment. Things to look out for include:

  • damage to cables and plugs
  • evidence of unsuitable operating conditions e.g., the presence of water
  • damage or faults to the equipment
  • evidence of overheating or discolouration
  • problems arising from the equipment in use

What is the process of PAT Testing?

When it comes to carrying out the PAT Test, a qualified engineer will firstly check the equipment visually and they’ll then test its operation using their own testing equipment.

Who can carry out my PAT Testing?

Whether you have an employee who’s able to conduct a PAT Test or need to outsource a safety compliance company, it’s important they have all the right credentials. As well as having qualifications and training under their belt, they’ll also need to have:

  • In-depth knowledge and experience in carrying out PAT Testing
  • The correct equipment to conduct the checks
  • Experience using the testing equipment
  • The ability to interpret the test results

What happens if a PAT Test fails?

If one of your electrical appliances fails its PAT Test, that means it’s unsafe to use in its current condition, so you’ll need clarity on why it’s failed. If the item needs small repairs such as fuse replacements or loose wiring, this can be fixed on the spot, but larger repairs will probably need more attention.

Label, label, and label!

A huge part of maintaining electrical safety in the workplace is record-keeping so to keep your records straight, your equipment needs to be labelled properly. Each tested appliance should be labelled with the date it was last PAT Tested and if it passed or failed. If labelled correctly, the duty holder can then decide when the appliance is due its next PAT Test.

Need support with your PAT Testing?

If you’re unsure when it comes to testing your portable electrical equipment, our Health & Safety experts can be with you every step of the way.

If you’re a client of ours already, you can call our free advice line on 0345 844 4848 where we’ll be able to offer our support to you 24/7.

If you’re not yet a client of ours, give our experts a call on 0345 844 1111 or fill out your details in the form opposite and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

Get more information

Pop in your details and we'll call you straight back

We'll get back to you as soon as we can.