Your ultimate guide to Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing)

What is PAT testing? (In service inspection and testing of electrical equipment)

Portable Appliance Testing – also known as PAT testing – is the examination of portable electrical equipment and appliances to ensure they are safe to use in the working environment.

It generally includes three steps:

  1. Regular, informal checks by the electrical equipment’s user/s
  2. A formal visual inspection of the equipment
  3. A manual examination of the equipment with a portable appliance tester device (the PAT test)

Do I need to do PAT testing?

PAT tests are recommended for allbusinesses that use portable electrical equipment. This includes office-based businesses, landlords, hotels and restaurants, healthcare settings and construction and manufacturing. Self-employed people should also carry out PAT tests on their business equipment, even in the home.

Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

No. The law does state that any electrical equipment in the workplace must be maintained to ensure it is safe and does not pose any danger, but it does not specify how the equipment should be maintained, or how often, nor who should carry out any maintenance.

PAT testing is recommended by experts and professionals as the best way to meet these health and safety obligations and to protect your employees.

See the HSE’s guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

Why do I need a PAT test? (In service inspection and testing of electrical equipment)

Poorly maintained or faulty electrical equipment can cause electric shocks, burns or fires. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, it is an employer’s duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees. This includes ensuring all equipment is safe to use.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 also place a legal responsibility on employers (or ‘duty holders’) to ensure electrical equipment does not pose any risk to users.

Failure to comply with either of these could result in fines and legal action.

PAT tests are a simple, cost-effective way to meet your legal obligations, protect your business and keep your employees safe.


What does PAT testing involve?

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) advises that PAT testing should include three steps – user checks, a formal visual inspection and the manual PAT test using a portable appliance tester.

Step 1 - user checks

All users of electrical equipment should have some basic training in how to use the equipment safely, as well as what danger signs to be aware of, as part of their induction. Users should feel confident in visually checking the equipment regularly for obvious signs of damage, as well as potential risks, such as cables trapped under desks or water hazards.

Visit the HSE’s website for further advice on user checks

Step 2 - a formal visual inspection

Prior to the manual PAT test, a formal visual inspection of the equipment should be carried out. According to the HSE, this process usually flags up around 90% of problems and it can be carried out by a competent member of staff with the relevant training, or a professional.

It is essential that the equipment is turned off and unplugged before beginning the visual inspection. The checklist should include:

1)The plug
-Look for any signs of damage, including cracks, burns or bent pins, and check that the wiring is correct. The live, neutral and earth conductors should all be connected to their relevant terminals tightly.

2)The cable
-Check the cable visually and physically for any damage, including fraying, cuts or abrasions. Any exposed wiring is an immediate fail.

3)The appliance
-Check for any obvious damage, including cracks, burns, corrosion and casing wear and tear

4)The mains socket
-Although this is not part of a PAT test, it should be included in the visual inspection. The mains testing of sockets is done during a fixed wire test.
-Look for cracks, signs of over-heating and any loose fittings and check the shutter mechanism

5)RCD (Residual Current Device) checks
-RCDs are fitted with a test button and will trip if the current flowing through the live conductor is different to that in the neutral
-The inspection should look for signs of damage, check the operating current and test the ‘test’ button to ensure it’s in working order

6)Environmental check
-Check for trip hazards from cables, overloaded extension leads, water risks and fire hazards.

View HSE’s guide to Maintaining Portable Electrical Equipment for further details and official guidance on how to conduct user checks, formal visual inspections and PAT tests

Step 3 – manual examination with a portable appliance tester (the PAT test)

This should only be carried out by a competent person with the correct training and equipment. It is strongly recommended to employ an experienced and qualified PAT tester for the safest results.

The PAT tester will carry out a visual inspection, as well as a manual electrical examination using a portable appliance tester device

This will test the appliance for earth continuity, lead polarity and insultation resistance, amongst other things, and will show if it has passed or failed the PAT test. The appliance will then receive a pass or fail sticker and the results should be recorded by the duty holder for future reference.

Failed appliances must not be used and should be removed immediately, either to be repaired or replaced. If the item is repaired, it must pass another PAT test before it is safe to use again.

For detailed information on PAT testing and maintaining your portable electrical equipment, read the full guide from the HSE - ‘Maintaining Portable Electrical Equipment’


What is ‘portable electrical equipment’?

This refers to items that can be moved and connected and disconnected from an electrical supply. They generally have a cable lead and a plug.

Common portable electrical equipment includes laptops, desktop computers, drills, kettles, heaters, fans, lamps, microwaves, toasters, radios, TVs, projectors, printers, hair dryers (including wired-in versions), extension leads, multi-way adaptors, connector leads and mobile phone charging equipment.

Larger equipment like fridges, photocopiers, water coolers, vending machines, washing machines and cookers are also included.

Water boilers that are wired in, mobile phones and battery-operated equipment are not included.

Portable electrical equipment falls into two categories: Class I and Class II, depending on the type of protection they offer the user. Both require PAT tests to ensure safety is maintained but are tested in different ways.


What is a ‘Class I’ electrical item?

Class I is any type of electrical equipment with an earth connection, which is a connection to the ground that prevents the user experiencing an electric shock. Damage to the earth connection can present a risk. It is recommended that all Class I equipment have regular PAT tests to check the earth connection is still sound.

An easy way to identify a Class I item is by looking at the type of casing it has, and its pin. If it has metal casing and a plug with a metal earth pin, it is a Class I electrical item. They also carry this symbol:

Common Class I items include toasters, kettles, microwaves and fridges.

What is a ‘Class II’ electrical item?

Class II, also known as ‘double insulated’ equipment, has extra insultation to prevent contact with live parts.

Class II items will have a plastic casing and carry this symbol:

Examples of Class II items include drills, hedge trimmers, photocopiers and computers.

Find out more about Class I and Class II electrical items

How often do I need a PAT test? (In service inspection and testing of electrical equipment)

There are no rules around how often your equipment needs a PAT test. It is entirely down to the ‘duty holder’ (the person tasked with responsibility for electrical equipment) to assess the risk level and decide on the frequency of inspections. This is usually determined by the type of equipment, how often it is being used and whether the working environment is considered high risk or low risk.

For example, a drill used daily on a construction site will need more frequent inspections than a vacuum cleaner in a holiday let.

View HSE’s guidance for PAT test frequency


Who can carry out a PAT test?

The formal visual inspection should be carried out by someone competent with an appropriate level of knowledge. In low-risk environments, a member of staff could be tasked with this if they were given the right training.

However, in high risk environments, or when the equipment requires an inspection and manual testing, it is always advised to use an experienced and qualified professional with expertise in the field. They should be well-trained and have the correct equipment for the job.

phs Compliance is the largest and most experienced provider of PAT testing in the UK. We are also the only electrical testing company in the UK to hold UKAS 17020 accreditation for the inspection of electrical installations and appliances.

With over 160 qualified electrical engineers available, our experienced team conduct these vital safety tests during your operational hours, without disrupting your customers or staff. We are proud to also be fully accredited by NICEIC, BIFM and CHAS, amongst others.

Do I need to PAT test employees’ personal equipment?

Yes, you have a joint responsibility with your employee to maintain any equipment used by your employee for their job, including personal laptops, desk lighting, fans or any other electrical equipment they use, including leased items like photocopiers.

Who should be responsible for PAT testing in the workplace?

To promote good practice, all equipment users should receive training in how to use electrical equipment safely and what danger signs to look for during daily use, such as loose wiring, burns or cracks, as part of their induction.

However, most workplaces will have staff members or duty holders who are responsible for conducting regular visual inspections of electrical equipment to ensure they are safe. They are also responsible for ensuring annual PAT tests are carried out and recording results. Duty holders should receive additional training to ensure they have the knowledge and understanding to carry out the role competently.

What is a PAT test certificate?

A PAT test certificate is provided to a business owner by the PAT testing specialist, such as phs Compliance, after their portable appliances have been tested. It can be used to prove compliance to regulators, insurers, customers and staff.

Can I do my own PAT test?

Unless you have a very good understanding of the workings of electrical equipment, and the relevant training to be able to use and fully understand portable appliance testers, it is not recommended that you carry out your own PAT test. It could put you, your business and other users at risk. Always seek a fully qualified and experienced professional to carry out the testing.

Putting your electrical safety in the hands of a professional service like phs Compliance gives you the peace of mind that you are fully complying with all of the regulations, as well as keeping your business, visitors and staff safe.


How much does a PAT test cost?

This will depend on the type of equipment and how many items are being tested, but PAT tests are an affordable way to meet your health and safety obligations. phs Compliance is proud to offer competitive prices, saving our customers up to 30%. You can call to one of our advisors today or get a quote online.

Do I need to keep a record of PAT tests?

There is no legal requirement to keep a record of your electrical testing, but it is strongly recommended that you do to prove your compliance to regulators, insurers and customers. This helps to protect your business.

Can you PAT test with a multimeter?

No. A PAT test can only be carried out by a portable appliance tester. The voltage on a multimeter is too low to be able to carry out the full test required for a PAT test. There is a danger it could ‘pass’ a faulty appliance. It is recommended to use a qualified PAT tester with a professional portable appliance tester designed for the job.

Can PAT testing damage your appliances or computers?

When done correctly by a qualified and experienced professional, PAT testing does not cause any damage to electrical equipment.

If you have any questions about PAT testing, or would like to book a PAT test with a phs Compliance engineer, please call us on 0333 0050456 or Fill out the form below:

Enquire About PAT Testing


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