PAT Testing FAQ

Stay Safe PAT Testing – our list of FAQs, helping you demystify portable appliance testing.

There are many common myths about portable appliance testing (PAT) – find out the answers to the key frequently asked questions here.

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

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. The IET Code of Practice suggests the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 can be met by

1) Performing in-service inspection and testing, which consist of three activities:

 User checks

Formal visual inspections (without tests)

 Combined inspections and tests

 2) Performing maintenance or, if necessary, replacing the defective item of

equipment (depending upon the results of the in-service inspection and testing).

3) Keeping up-to-date records that can be a means of showing compliance.

Although the Electricity at Work Regulations do not require the keeping of records, up-to-date information can be a means of showing that a maintenance scheme exists. They also do not make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement.

It is the responsibility of your company duty holder to decide on the frequency of inspection. This could be determined by carrying out a risk-based assessment taking into account the following:

  • Environment in which the appliance is used
  • Users
  • Class of equipment in use
  • Equipment type
  • Frequency of use
  • Previous records of failure

Guidance on the initial frequency of tests is in the IET Code of Practice, Table 7.1 on page 52.

Although the Electricity at Work Regulations does not require records of maintenance to be kept, it is recommended that records of maintenance, including test results, should be kept throughout the working life of the electrical equipment to enable:

  • The condition of the equipment to be monitored
  • The effectiveness of the maintenance policies to be assessed
  • To demonstrate that an effective maintenance system is in place

To test portable appliances you must be a “Competent” person. Page 25 of the IET Code of Practice defines competency as “A person possessing sufficient knowledge or experience to be capable of ensuring that injury is prevented”.

Technical knowledge or experience may include:

1. Adequate knowledge of electricity.

2. Adequate experience of electrical work.

3. Adequate understanding of the system to be worked on and practical experience of that class of system.

4. Understanding the hazards that may arise during the work and the precautions that need to be taken.

5. The ability to recognize at all times whether it is safe for work to continue.

To be a “competent person” you need to demonstrate competency.  This is usually done by undertaking a course of instruction and passing an exam, such as the City & Guilds Level 3 Certificate for the Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment 2377.

On average it takes approximately 4 minutes to carry out a PAT test in accordance with the IET Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment. This is for a combined inspection and test. This will increase if minor repairs, fuse or plug replacements are required.

The number of test per hour will vary depending on a variety of factors including but not limited to:

  • Type of appliance
  • Condition of appliance
  • Ease of access
  • Layout of premises

The actual PAT test is the last procedure we carry out in the process of PAT testing. The formal visual inspection is the most important part of PAT testing, it can identify the majority of faults with your electrical appliances.

The formal visual inspection consists of the following examination:

  • Condition of the appliance case, power cord and plug
  • Relevant safety markings on plug and fuse
  • Removal of fuse on moulded plugs
  • Removal of plug cover on rewirable plugs
  • Use of correctly rated fuse
  • Correct wiring of plug
  • Security of connections
  • Correct use of cord grip
  • Check for counterfeit plug, fuses and accessories

PAT Tests consists of the following:

  • An earth continuity test (Class I appliances)
  • Insulation Resistance test
  • Functional Check

Insulation resistance testing may be substituted by a substitute leakage or touch leakage test where appropriate. ‘Soft’ tests may also be used where damage could occur by the use of a ‘Hard’ test.