Find answers to common questions here…
What is PAT Testing?
Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is an important part of a company’s or individual’s responsibility to health and safety. This is done using a series of specialised testing procedures on all your portable appliances.
Is Portable Appliance Testing a legal requirement?
It is a statutory requirement and many insurance companies require the insured to comply with all current regulations. This includes the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which state that “As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger” (Regulation 4(2)). “Electrical equipment includes anything used, intended to be used or installed for use, to generate, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy.” (Regulation 2(1)).
The responsibility on the employer to ensure work equipment is safe is also covered by The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. This states that “Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided.” (Regulation 4(1)). This includes all work equipment (fixed, portable or transportable) connected to a source of electrical energy.”
Failure to comply with Electrical Regulations can lead to a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and/or up to six months imprisonment. For breaches under the general duties of the Health Safety at Work Act 1974, penalties of up to £20,000 were introduced in 1992 and offences heard on indictment in the Crown Court attract unlimited financial penalties and up to two years imprisonment.
What does a PAT test consist of?
We start with a visual inspection checking for:
- Damaged flexes
- Damaged plugs and equipment (overheating, burn marks, discolouration)
- Correctly wired plugs
- Correctly rated fuse
Then a series of tests (depending on the class of equipment), they may include:
- Earth continuity testing
- Insulation resistance
- Polarity test
- Earth leakage test
What types of appliances need testing?
Basically, any type of equipment, which is powered by electrical energy. The IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment states that this Code of Practice covers:
An appliance of less than 18 kg in mass that is intended to be moved while in operation or an appliance which can easily be moved from one place to another, e.g. toaster, food mixer, vacuum cleaner, fan heater.
Movable Equipment (sometimes called Transportable):
This is equipment, which is either: 18 kg or less in mass and not fixed, e.g. electric fire, or equipment with wheels, castors or other means to facilitate movement by the operator as required to perform its intended use, e.g. air conditioning unit.
This is portable equipment intended to be held in the hand during normal use, e.g. hair dryer, drill, soldering iron
Stationary Equipment or Appliances:
This equipment has a mass exceeding 18 kg and is not provided with a carrying handle, e.g. refrigerator, washing machine.
This is equipment of an appliance, which is fastened to a support or otherwise secured in a specified location, e.g. bathroom heater, towel rail.
Appliances/Equipment for Building in:
This equipment is intended to be installed in a prepared recess such as a cupboard or similar. In general, equipment for building in does not have an enclosure on all sides because on one or more of the sides, additional protection against electric shock is provided by the surroundings e.g. a built-in electric cooker.
Information Technology Equipment (Business Equipment):
Information technology equipment includes electrical business equipment such as computer and mains powered telecommunications equipment, and other equipment for general business use, such as mail processing machines, electric plotters, trimmers, VDUs, data terminal equipment, typewriters, telephones, printers, photo-copiers, power packs.
The use of extension leads should be avoided where possible. If used, they should be tested as portable appliances. It is recommended that 3-core leads (including a protective earthing conductor) be used.
A standard 13 A 3-pin extension socket-outlet with a 2-core cable should never be used even if the appliance to be used in Class II, as it would not provide protection against electrical shock if used at any time with an item of Class I equipment.
The length of an extension lead for general use should not exceed the following:
- Core Area Maximum Length
- 1.25mm2 12 metres
- 1.5mm2 15 metres
- 2.5mm2 25 metres*
- 2.5mm2 cables are too large for standard 13 A plugs, but they may be used with BS EN 60309 industrial plugs.
These maximum lengths are not applicable to the flex of an appliance, for guidance refer to paragraph 15.13 (IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment).
If extension lead lengths do exceed the above, they shall be protected by a 30 mA RCD manufactured to BS 7071.
How often do my appliances need to be PAT tested?
Frequency of testing depends on the type of equipment and the environment in which it is used. The frequencies we recommend are based on the guidelines by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) and our own experience.
Could I, or one of my employees, carry out Portable Appliance Testing in-house?
Yes, however, you would need to ensure that any person who carries this electrical testing out is competent to do so. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 guidance on Regulation 4(3) state that: “The operation, maintenance and testing of electrical systems and equipment should be carried out only by those person who are competent for the particular class of work.” This is covered by the IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment which states: “Those carrying out inspection and testing must be competent to undertake the inspection and, where appropriate, testing of electrical equipment and appliances having due regard to their own safety and that of others.
The tester must have an understanding of the modes of electrical, mechanical or thermal damage to electrical equipment and appliances and their flexes, which may be encountered in any environment.
Training must include the identification of equipment and appliance types to determine the test procedures and frequency of inspection and testing. Persons must be familiar with the test instruments used and in particular their limitations and restrictions so as to achieve repeatable results without damaging the equipment of appliance.
The importance must be stressed of recording inspection and test results, labelling and reporting to managers for action on defects, trends or changes in their assessment of risk.
Wouldn’t it be cheaper if I have one of my employees carry out Portable Appliance Testing?
Although you may believe that purchasing your own Portable Appliance Test instrument and having in-house staff carry out the portable appliance testing may be more cost effective, there are several factors to bear in mind. Firstly, you would need to ensure that the requirement of competence is met, which will undoubtedly involve expenditure in training. Secondly, you need to purchase the equipment and the software, and gain the expertise in its use. We find that many companies who have tried to carry out testing in-house also take more time to do the electrical testing as the staff generally only do this as part of their job, and do not have the experience to minimise the disruption factor in shutting down equipment. There may also be a tendency to “pass” appliances that may present a potential hazard, as it would mean taking the appliance out of commission.
All of our test engineers are trained to meet the current recommendations. This is our core business and we firmly believe that we can carry out the Portable Appliance Testing at your premises in the most cost-effective manner, whilst our experience and unique systems minimise the disruption to you and your staff.
Are the Tests Results accurate?
All the tests NVPC carry out are in accordance with the IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment. All test results for any piece of equipment will fall within the IEE guidelines and will either PASS or FAIL accordingly. All of our test equipment is calibrated annually to ensure all results are accurate and consistent.
How much will it cost?
Our pricing is based on a cost per test and number of items to be tested. For a free, no obligation quote, call us now on 0844 888 1149 or fill in the Electrical Safety Testing enquiry form and a NVPC Account Manager will get in touch with you.
Are there any additional costs?
No. Minor repairs to appliances and the supply and/or fitting of materials e.g. new plugs, correctly rated fuse, rewiring plug top etc are all free and part of our service.
We believe that we can offer you, the potential customer, an unrivalled service, in quality and ability that will minimise disruption to your day to day operations whilst ensuring that you, and your staff, are working in the safest environment possible.
How long will the testing take?
We can do approximately 30 to 50 electrical tests per hour; this is dependent on access and availability of the items.
We have 1000’s of bits of equipment. Does this mean that we get reams of worthless paper that takes ages to manage?
No, we will supply your Portable Appliance Testing Certificate together with your appliance details and test results to you via an E mail attachment, which you can open, print as a hard copy if required, and electronically for future reference. In accordance with the current IEE regulations we will store and maintain your original paper test results together with electronic copies of all the data we mail to you for a period of 7 years.
Why do you say PAT testing and not PA Testing?
Portable Appliance Testing is abbreviated to ‘PAT.’ The phrase ‘PAT Testing’ is in fact a tautology in the same way that some people say ‘LCD Display’. However, the phrase is commonly used in the industry even though most people realise it is incorrect. Some people insist on calling the process PA Testing which causes confusion. The correct term for the whole process is actually ‘In-service Inspection & Testing of Electrical Equipment’.