Health & Safety Glossary

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)

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What is Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)?

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is a common term that refers to the inspection and examination of electrical machinery and equipment to determine if they are operating at maximum effectiveness and if they are safe to use. 

Owing to their very nature, it’s easy to determine safety detects in electrical machinery by a simple visual inspection. However, in certain cases, such as faulty wiring, tests must be conducted to identify the faults. 

It’s also important to understand that visual inspections are only a small component of the portable appliance testing (PAT) process. In most situations, other tests must be conducted to determine the overall performance of the appliance. 

The usual process involves a comprehensive check by a user, which often requires them to use a checklist. This helps with the overall electrical maintenance and prolongs the life of the appliance itself. Competent individuals are usually assigned by the authorities to inspect portable appliances. 

 

Why is Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) Important?

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is important for several reasons. In the UK, the Electricity at Work Regulations Act of 1989 stipulates that all electrical systems must be maintained properly to mitigate any hazards or dangers. 

Portable appliance testing is also important to mitigate employer liability. Employers are required by law to provide a safe and secure work environment for employees. Considering the fact that employees frequently interact with portable appliances, making sure that the equipment is safe is necessary for employers. 

And, the best way to ensure the safety of such equipment is to test it routinely. There are strict health and safety regulations that require employers to test electrical appliances. 

Most equipment manufacturers also provide clear recommendations for testing appliances at specific intervals to ensure optimal performance and safety. The gap between each test usually varies depending on the environment in which the appliance is used, and the type of appliance itself. 

For instance, certain types of equipment, like handheld appliances, are susceptible to more damage as compared to others. Due to misuse or improper handling, they are likely to fail much earlier. That’s why it’s important that specific guidelines are followed for using portable appliances. 

 

How to Conduct Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)?

PAT starts with a conventional user check, often with a professional using a brief checklist. This mainly involves a visual inspection and testing using tools such as a multimeter to ensure that the electrical flow is proper. 

The test also involves checking any flexible cables to ensure that they are in prime condition, and where needed, the test may also require users to check for grounding. In some cases, the insulation might also be checked, and if there’s any exposed metal, it might be checked to determine if it’s causing an issue. 

The limits that determine pass or fail usually vary based on the type of equipment that’s being tested. PAT is usually done by external companies, so in most cases, companies generally work with third-party companies to conduct portable appliance testing. 

This helps mitigate risk within the environment and allows a professional to easily identify any major signs of damage, especially elements such as damaged or exposed cables. 

There is always a danger of electrocution when testing electrical components. That is one of the main reasons why you need a competent individual with experience to check the wiring. 

But, owing to the fact that most portable appliances are usually relatively safe and under controlled levels, a visual inspection is often the best way to begin. If deemed necessary, then managers can often bring in a professional electrician for PAT.

 

What Portable Appliances Require Testing?

Portable appliances include all electrical equipment that is not considered a part of fixed installation, but usually needs to be connected to a fixed installation. Appliances that use a plug and play mechanism, or have a wire that goes in a socket are referred to as portable appliances. 

Essentially, any appliance that goes directly into a wall socket or generator to work properly is a portable appliance. Common examples include:

  • Electrical drills
  • Computers
  • Electric kettles
  • Refrigerators
  • Deep freezers
  • Electrical laminators
  • Vending machines
  • Photocopiers

It’s important to mention here that cordless power tools, for instance, don’t need testing. That’s because they don’t plug directly into the wall. However, the electrical cradle or charger that does connect through the power socket will require testing. 

IT equipment also requires extensive testing. This also includes the power cords, though they must be tested separately. If a company is using cable extensions, they must also undergo testing. More importantly, any equipment that uses 110 volts or those that require three phases will also be tested. 

 

Legislation Governing Portable Appliance Testing

PAT legislation was introduced to ensure safer performance of electrical equipment in workplaces by the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. Other legislation that references PAT include:

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Act of 1999
  • The Provision and Use of work Equipment Act of 1998

Currently, the law requires all employers to ensure the safety of portable appliances, and to maintain them properly. Landlords, business owners, and even self-employed professionals have to ensure portable appliance testing. 

Owing to the high risk of damages or faults occurring in electrical equipment, PAT legislation clearly outlines the need for regularly checking and testing the appliances to ensure their safety. Anyone with the knowledge of electricity, such as an electrician, is capable of portable appliance testing. 

There are also PAT companies that can test appliances in the workplace. 

 

Manage Portable Appliance Testing with EcoOnline

EcoOnline’s Asset Register Software allows companies to easily manage all of their asset data through a centralized dashboard. This makes it easy for them to track test frequency, any key results, and make adjustments as they see fit. 

It also integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Health & Safety module from EcoOnline, offering unparalleled flexibility and control over tracking and recording.