Basics of PAT

The Basics of PAT testing in Manchester, Cheshire and Stoke on Trent

Portable Appliance Testing (commonly known as PAT or PAT Inspection or PAT Testing) is a process in Cheshire, Manchester, Stoke on Trent, but also across the United Kingdom by which electrical appliances are routinely checked for safety. The correct term for the whole process is In-service Inspection & Testing of Electrical Equipment.

What is a Portable Appliance?

A portable appliance is ‘any electrical item which can or is intended, to be moved whilst connected to an electrical supply.’

Reasons for Portable Appliance Testing

Each and every business in the UK needs to be in compliance with the Electricity at Work Regulations. Portable Appliance Testing is the best way for companies and landlords to comply with the law.
Regular testing of your appliances will help you:

  • Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • Comply with all Health & Safety requirements
  • Comply with Provision and User of Work Equipment
  • Comply with ISO standards
  • Meet insurance obligations
  • Significantly reduce the risk of injury or fire
  • Provide you with a detailed inventory of electrical equipment

Also, most Fire Officers or Health & Safety Inspectors will ask to see PAT Testing records and certificates during an inspection. Many businesses in Cheshire, Manchester and Stoke on Trent have been caught out, so ensure you are properly covered.

What is Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)

Portable Appliance Testing can be broken down into a three-step process.  The PAT process starts with simple observation of a portable appliance, followed by a formal visual inspection, and then finally a formal hands-on inspection by a person or company competent to perform the testing.

The first step is for staff to simply look at any portable appliance they will be using and make known any electrical safety issues they may believe it has.  For instance, if you are using a kettle in your workplace, and one day you happen to notice that the plug is cracked, you should immediately let your superiors know of the issue.
Simple observation is a very important part of the PAT process and should always lead to steps two and three of the process: formal visual inspection and the combined inspections and PAT testing, both to be performed by a competent individual.

Formal Visual Inspection
All portable appliances in the workplace, or which are made available to the public for their use, should undergo the process of a formal visual inspection by a competent individual.  For an individual to be considered ‘competent’ they should have some basic training in portable appliance testing.
The formal visual inspection allows the competent individual the time to visually inspect the portable appliance and look for obvious defects such as frayed wires, cracked cables, and broken plugs.  Interestingly enough, approximately 90% of portable appliances with safety issues can be identified simply through this set of the process.

Combined Inspections and PAT Testing
The third and final step in the PAT process is the formal hands-on inspection and testing, carried out at regular set intervals. The frequency of formal PAT Testing varies depending on the piece of equipment being tested and the environment in which it is operated (see frequency table)
Each piece of equipment will be tested in isolation, i.e. the appliance will be disconnected from the mains supply and all data cables will be removed.
The competent individual will then perform a number of checks, including:

  • Checking for damage to the outer portion of the power cable
  • Damage to the plug itself
  • Any area on the cable where tape has been applied
  • Signs of misuse or over usage of an item, such as rusting or smoke damage
  • Loose parts or screws which affect the appliances working ability or safety
  • Removal of the plug cover to inspect for: adequate fuses, cord grip security and integrity, three wires connected to the correct terminals, no bare wires visible, tight terminal screws, and that there is no sign of damage, overheating, wetness, and excessive dust or dirt.

Depending on the type of appliance, the PAT tester will then continue with a variety of formal safety tests, using a specialist piece of equipment. This can include:

  • An Earth Bond Impedance Test
  • Insulation Resistance Test
  • Load Test
  • Operation Test

What happens if an appliance fails any of the PAT tests?

This will depend on the nature of the failure and the arrangement you have with the PAT tester. Simple faults may be rectified or damaged items replaced, allowing the equipment to be re-tested and passed. A more serious fault will mean the appliance must be taken out of service and either properly repaired of safely and legally disposed of.

Does the Law state that I have to PAT Test?

Quite simply the answer is No….
There is no current legislation in place that specifically requires PAT testing to be carried out by any Company or Employer.
However, the introduction of the “Electricity at Work Regulations 1989” (EAWR), prompted many companies and employers to inspect and test portable appliances. The Regulations do not specifically mention portable appliances. They do, however, require that any electrical system be constructed, maintained and used in a way so as to prevent danger. The regulation regards portable appliances as “systems” and thus a regular programme or procedure of inspection and testing is required in order to determine as and when maintenance is required.
PAT testing was introduced as a more effective and accurate means to enable an employer to comply with the above regulatory requirement and other relevant legislation and Health and Safety regulations. Most business’s and employers simply do not have the time or access to the specialized equipment required to enable them to carry out this testing themselves and prefer to employ a specialized company such as ours to take on this task for them.

When things go wrong……
How often have you read or heard in the news and media of another tragedy of a home or business being destroyed by fire? And all too frequently subsequent investigations reveal that these have started due to faulty appliances.
This unfortunate but avoidable situation can then be further compounded by the discovery of the fact that many major insurance companies are now insisting that a regular programme of inspection and testing is carried out. Failing to do so is in many cases being met with a refusal to honor a claim following an incident.
It is well worth checking the small print on your Business or Public Liability insurance policy to ensure that you meet any requirements as many have introduced this as a clause to policy documents over the past few years
The news and media are now full of adverts from injury claim specialist’s that are all too ready to pursue any possible claim…
Add to this the possibility of prosecution for negligence or failing to comply with required legislation
Hopefully, this will never happen to you but the risks still remain however big or small and it is your responsibility to ensure that a regular programme of inspection and maintenance is employed and adhered too.

So, ‘Do I have to PAT Test?’……… Really the simple answer is YES.

I think it is clear from the above that the simple answer really should be yes unless you are able to clearly demonstrate possibly if things have gone wrong in a Court of Law, that you do adopt and have in place an alternative regular programme of inspection and testing that will identify any required maintenance that will meet the requirements as laid out in the relevant legislation. This must be accompanied by documented records and evidence etc to prove your claim.