Electrical Safety: A Guide for Employers on Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)

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If you operate a business, you have probably encountered the term “PAT testing.” But do you understand it? This guide explains what PAT testing is, the importance of PAT testing and risk assessments, and what Class I and Class II mean when it comes to PAT testing.

What is PAT testing?

PAT is the regular examination of electrical devices to ensure safety. While most defects will be visible to the naked eye, some are less obvious. That’s why it’s essential to test electrical devices as well as inspect them visually.

Is PAT Testing A Legal requirement?

While PAT is not a specific legal requirement, the law does require employers to ensure that all electrical equipment is maintained in a state that is safe to use. Regular PAT is the easiest way to do this, as it allows the business to spot defects before they become dangerous.

In-Service Inspection and Testing is typically addressed by the use of three different inspection regimes:

  1. User Checks: All employees who use electrical equipment should be instructed on the procedure for critically looking at these appliances. The user is, after all, the best person to report a fault with an appliance, as they are the person who interacts with it the most.
  2. Formal Visual Inspections: competent employees can physically check the cable, plug, and appliance itself for any signs of obvious damage.
  3. Combined Inspection and Testing is a full test carried out by a competent person who has received appropriate training. The combined inspection and test starts with a visual inspection before moving on to an internal inspection, looking at the condition of the plug, fuse, and connections, and then additional electrical tests undertaken with portable appliance

Why is PAT testing important?

The purpose of portable appliance testing is to ensure that any portable or transportable work equipment is maintained in good working order to prevent harm resulting from its use.

A portable appliance is typically defined as any work equipment that is intended to be moved or can easily be moved while in operation. Such portable appliances are items of work equipment, not part of any fixed electrical installation, but intended to be connected to a fixed installation, or a generator, by means of a flexible cable and a plug and socket, or a spur box, or something similar.

PAT Testing Risk Assessment

A risk assessment must be completed in order to determine the frequency of inspection and combined inspection and testing, and it must consider all factors relating to the source of the work equipment, the type of work equipment, the nature of the work activities being undertaken, and the local operating environment.

How Often Do You Need A PAT Test?

The period between inspections will vary depending on the type and age of the equipment, the conditions of use, and the working environment in which the work activities take place, as determined by the risk assessment and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Who can perform a PAT test?

Portable appliance electrical testing with a PAT device must only be performed by an individual who is competent in the safe use of the test equipment and who knows how to interpret the test results obtained.

  • All portable and transportable electrical equipment must be suitable for the task intended and for the environment in which it is used. Where the risk assessment identifies a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury, appropriate safeguards and control measures must be implemented.
  • Hazards presented by portable electrical equipment must be assessed using the normal risk assessment techniques. If the hazards cannot be eliminated or avoided, they should be managed and controlled by setting up an appropriate maintenance system comprising both visual inspections and combined inspections and tests.
  • The user must evaluate the item of work equipment before use and visually check for signs that the equipment is not in a safe condition. If the visual check does indicate that the work equipment is not safe to use, it must not be used.
  • All portable items of work equipment must be transported and stored safely to minimise damage.
  • Formal visual checks must be carried out at regular intervals. The period between inspections will vary depending on the type and age of the equipment, the conditions of use, and the working environment in which the work activities take place, as determined by the risk assessment and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Combined inspection and testing must be undertaken by a competent person or by a contractor, as the nature of the inspection is more detailed than a visual inspection and involves opening the plug to inspect the condition of the connectors, insulation, fuse, etc.
  • An inventory of all electrical equipment at a given site or location must be maintained to ensure that all applicable work equipment is included in the testing process and that checks and tests are effective and relevant.
  • The results of all combined inspections and testing must be recorded or stored in a retrievable medium, and all appliances must be marked to indicate whether they passed the test or failed.
  • Damaged or defective work equipment must not be used. The equipment must be labelled as faulty, removed from use immediately, and repaired or replaced. All equipment failures must be logged, investigated, and, where necessary, reported to manufacturers.
Electrical Safety A Guide for Employers on Portable Appliance Testing PAT

What do Class I and Class II mean when it comes to PAT testing?

Class I appliances

Class I appliances have two levels of protection: the basic insulation and the earth connection. If the basic insulation fails, the earth connection will act as the next level of protection. Portable appliance tests for Class I appliances must include earth continuity and insulation resistance tests.

Class II appliances

Class II appliances have two layers of insulation. The plastic connector provides the basic insulation, and the plastic casing provides backup protection. Double insulation removes the need for an earth connection, and the only portable appliance test that must be undertaken is the insulation resistance test.

Class III appliances

Class III appliances use an isolating transformer. Class III appliances are not required to have an earth connection. Portable appliance testing is not required unless the charging leads fall under Class II.

There is no debate; if you operate a business, you need to have your appliances PAT tested by a qualified professional. If you are not already getting regular PAT tests, you can speak with the Avensure H&S team and arrange a test.

Get Started with PAT Testing!

Health and safety can be a large undertaking if you don’t have the time and expertise. That’s why thousands of organisations choose to alleviate this burden by outsourcing their health and safety management to Avensure.

To find out more about how Avensure can support you with electrical safety and so much more, get in touch.

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