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What is PAT Testing?

  • Post published:June 12, 2021
  • Reading time:5 mins read
Home > What is PAT Testing?
PAT testing refers to the process of examining electrical appliances and equipment to make sure they are safe to use. Many defects can be detected with visual inspections, but electronic tests are involved too to ensure all defects are picked up. And what does PAT testing stand for? Quite simply it stands for Portable Appliance Testing, which makes sense considering the brief definition above. 

Who can PAT test?

So, who can PAT test exactly? As this is a matter of electrical safety, not just anyone can carry out these examinations. Electrical work must be carried out by someone with a good working knowledge of electrical systems, and a decent level of skill and experience in the field.  You can find a qualified, registered electrician here if you need some assistance. A common question here is ‘Can I do my own PAT testing?’ Well, the answer is yes, as long as you know what you’re doing. The chosen term for someone capable of doing their own PAT testing is a ‘competent person’. What is a ‘competent person’? It’s someone who:
  • As mentioned, has a knowledge of electricity and experience of electrical work
  • Understands the dangers, potential hazards and precautions required for PAT testing
  • Knows how to do a visual examination
  • Knows how to do the electronic elements of a PAT test
  • Has the right equipment to carry out the test
If you would like to do your own PAT testing but you’re unsure if you have enough know-how to do it safely, there are PAT testing courses you can go on. When it comes to electricity, safety always has to come first. 

What does Portable Appliance Testing involve?

As we have briefly mentioned, PAT testing involves two main elements: a visual inspection of the electrical appliance or equipment, and electronic tests, to ensure that appliances or equipment are safe to use and to prevent the likelihood of electrical accidents.  In a visual inspection, a ‘competent person’ examines an appliance, its lead and its plug. Visual examinations are essential to make sure the equipment is in good working order. In fact most electrical safety defects are found in visual checks. This kind of inspection is also vital because some defects can’t be found with electronic testing alone. Having said this, electronic testing is still essential as this is the only way to find certain electrical safety defects. This testing checks things like lead polarity, earth continuity and insulation resistance. After a PAT test the appliance or equipment must be passed or failed, and records should be kept of these results.

How often is PAT testing required?

When it comes to PAT testing frequency, there are no specific rules. The precautions you take need to be ‘appropriate’ to the risk, according to the regulations currently in place.  So how often do you need to PAT test? It depends.  If this is annoyingly vague, testing frequency should be based on the electrical class of the equipment, its category and the level of risk in its working environment.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also suggests employers in particular should reflect on the age of the appliance, how frequently it’s used, the effects or modifications/repairs, the likelihood of misuse of the equipment, and manufacturer recommendations.

Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

It is not a legal requirement for all electrical appliances and equipment to be PAT tested. But UK law states that businesses must maintain electrical equipment in a safe condition, and businesses have a legal obligation to protect the safety of employees and the public. PAT testing is very often a good way to do this, and it has become a common way to meet these obligations. 

Do landlords need to PAT test appliances?

Landlords have a legal obligation to maintain high standards of electrical safety in their rented property, and there are regulations stating landlords have to maintain freestanding electrical devices in a safe condition. The latter must be done annually at least. So, do landlords need to PAT test appliances? These regulations do not state exactly how landlords need to maintain electrical safety, so they don’t have to PAT test appliances. But, PAT testing is a reliable and popular way for landlords to make sure they’re meeting their legal obligations.

What appliances need to be PAT tested?

There are seven categories of appliance where PAT testing should be considered:
  1. Stationary appliances
  2. Fixed appliances
  3. Moveable appliances
  4. Portable appliances
  5. IT appliances
  6. Handheld appliances
  7. Chargers and cables
And there are three classes of electrical appliances. Class 1 is the most dangerous, and class 3 the least:
  1. Class 1 – Appliances with basic insulation, relying on an earth for protection. Eg. photocopiers, vending machines, industrial machinery. 
  2. Class 2 – Appliances with extra insulation, not relying on an earth (therefore safer). Eg. drills, lawnmowers, lamps.
  3. Class 3 – Low voltage appliances, the safest class – charging leads might need to be PAT tested. Eg. laptops, mobile phones, cameras.
Class 1 equipment needs a complete PAT test, class 2 needs a PAT insulation test and class 3 doesn’t need to be tested.