PAT Testing

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The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. However, the Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently (i.e. they don’t make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement, nor do they make it a legal requirement to undertake this annually).

A high street travel agent’s approach to PAT

A high street travel agency thought about what it needed to do to maintain its portable electrical equipment. As their work generally included office work and dealing with customers the manager considered that health and safety risks would be generally low. The portable electrical equipment was used in a clean and dry shop by a small number of employees. In deciding what action was needed:

  • The manager thought about the type of portable equipment that was used in their shop and the level of risk that it might create;
  • She looked for electrical equipment in the shop and found that there were a number of computers, a fax, two printers and a vacuum cleaner;
  • She then thought about the likelihood that the items could become damaged: Computers, printers and faxes were not moved around much and were positioned so that the cables could not become trapped, so the probability that items might be damaged was extremely low. The manager decided that they would be maintained by a visual inspection every 5 years.
  • The vacuum cleaner was heavily used. The manager remembered that the cable was repaired 6 months ago by an electrician as it had been pulled out of the cable grip, so she knew that in future it would need to be looked at more often. It was decided that the vacuum should have a visual inspection every 6 months and that employees would be encouraged to look for signs of damage to the plug and cable before plugging it in.
  • The manager kept a note of the checks in her diary to remind herself to re-inspect the equipment.
  • Only the vacuum cleaner was thought to present a high risk, so the manager decided to get this tested after twelve months and review this after 24 months.
  • None of the remaining equipment in use was thought to present a high risk, so the manager decided that full portable appliance testing was not needed for these items. 

Key Points:

  • Portable electrical equipment must be maintained to prevent danger.
  • For most portable electrical equipment in a low-risk workplace, a portable appliance test is not needed.
  • Working out what you have to do is not time consuming or complicated.
  • Simply looking for signs of damage is a good way of maintaining portable electric equipment.

HSE’s approach to maintaining portable appliances in its own offices

In 2011, the HSE reviewed its approach to portable appliance maintenance in its own offices. Thinking about the type of equipment in use, and how it was used, the HSE looked back at the results from its annual testing of portable appliances across its estate over the last five years. Using the results of the previous tests, the HSE decided that further portable appliance tests are not needed within the foreseeable future or at all for certain types of portable equipment. Also, they decided to continue to monitor any faults reported as a result of user checks and visual inspections and review its maintenance system if evidence suggests that it needs revising. Electrical equipment will continue to be maintained by a series of user checks and visual inspections by staff that has had some training.

Key Points:

  • Annual portable appliance testing is not always necessary in low risk environments
  • You do not need to be an electrician to carry out visual inspections
  • Low cost user checks and visual inspections are a good method of maintaining portable electric equipment

For further mythbusting see the following links:-