Portable Appliance Testing – What to expect on a PAT course?

Portable appliance testing

Portable appliance testing is the term used to describe the testing of electrical appliances to ensure they are safe to use. It is often referred to as the acronym PAT. Its purpose is to prevent electrical accidents in the work and home environment. A full PAT test should include both a visual assessment and a more in-depth inspection using specialist PAT testing equipment.

Is PAT testing necessary?

Under health and safety law in the UK, it is not strictly necessary for all appliances to be fully PAT tested. It is not a legal requirement.

However, business owners must take reasonable steps to ensure that all electrical equipment on-site are safe and properly maintained.

This also applies to those that are self-employed.

One way of complimenting general risk assessments is to implement portable appliance testing across the whole business.

Who can do Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)?

UK law states that portable appliance testing must be completed by a competent person. The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) defines a competent person as someone who must:

  • Have adequate knowledge of electricity
  • Have adequate experience in electrical work
  • Have an understanding of the hazards that can arise during the work
  • Have an understanding of electricity at work regulations
  • Understand the precautions that need to be taken
  • Have the ability to recognise at all times whether it is safe for work to continue
  • Have an adequate understanding of the system to be worked on and practical experience of the class of system being worked on

In an ideal world, PAT tests would be conducted by a qualified electrician. However, a pat tester would be deemed competent enough if they complete a PAT training course run by a qualified instructor. The course would typically include a knowledge-based and practical test that will be marked by the instructor.

The fundamentals of the course cover electrical safety in the workplace and explain how to test each item. It includes a visual inspection of the appliances to be tested and shows a sound understanding of the Portable Appliance Testing device.

What is a PAT test?

A PAT test is an inspection of the electrical appliance to check that they are safe to use. The main purpose of this is to prevent danger in the workplace by minimising the risk of electrical accidents.

A full PAT test includes a visual inspection of the appliance and an in-depth check using specialised PAT testing equipment. This test checks earth continuity, lead polarity, and insulation resistance of the appliance.

Some appliances only require a reduced test, known as a PAT insulation test. Regardless of the type of test, testing of portable appliances will result in either a pass or fail. The test results will be marked alongside the date of the test on the appliance. This information then will also ideally be recorded in a PAT test log.

Which Portable Appliances should be tested?

In current legislation, there is no specific definition of what a “Portable Appliance” is. However, the common interpretation is “any appliance with a plug that can be inserted into a regular wall socket.”

High-risk machinery that requires inspection by a qualified electrician are not tested during a PAT test.

Portable does not necessarily mean “moveable”. PAT testing applies to fixed appliances, stationary appliances, IT appliances, portable appliances, cables, chargers and handheld appliances. There are 2 main factors which determine whether an item should be tested. These are the electrical ‘class’ of the item and the ‘category’ of the item.

What are the ‘electrical classes’ in PAT testing?

Electrical appliances are typically categorised as Class 1, 2 or 3.

Class 3 refers to low voltage items. They are the least dangerous and therefore the safest class of electrical appliance. Class 3 items do not need to be PAT tested, although any charging leads should be checked.

Class 2 includes electrical equipment that doesn’t rely on earth for protection. These should be tested.

Class 1 relates to equipment that has basic insulation and needs earth for protection.

Regardless of Class, business owners are advised to test all leads with plugs attached where possible.

How often should PAT tests be conducted?

There is no specific rule for the frequency of PAT tests. The regulations state that the level of precautions taken should be ‘appropriate’ to the risk. Frequency can, therefore, be determined based on;

  • the risk level of the working environment
  • the category of the appliance
  • the electrical class of the appliance

HSE – The Health and Safety Executive recommends that employers consider the following information when determining the regularity of tests:

  • Age of the equipment
  • Frequency of use
  • Foreseeable misuse of equipment
  • Effects of any repairs or modifications
  • Manufacturer’s recommendations

Who is responsible for portable appliance testing safety?

Ultimately, the employer is responsible for the safe condition of the workplace.

PAT testing may be delegated or outsourced to any competent individual.

However, for business owners to meet their legal obligations equipment must not fail into a state of disrepair. This can only be achieved if appliances if regular risk assessments and checks are in place.

At TutorCare we offer PAT Testing Training Courses in-house at your premises as well as at centres across the UK. The courses which cover appliance classification, electrical risk awareness and how to use a PAT tester lasts one day with certificates awarded upon successful completion.

Reduce the risk to your employees today by applying online now – PAT Test Course.

Portable Appliance Testing further reading:

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999

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