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What is PAT Testing?

Portable Appliance Testing, also known as PAT Testing, is the systematic and comprehensive electrical safety testing and recording of portable appliances.

As a business owner or duty holder, what are my responsibilities regarding portable appliance testing?

Under the Provision of Work Equipment Regulations (1998), employers are required to ensure work equipment is fit for purpose.

New guidelines also state that when contracting a PAT Test engineer, it is the responsibility of the employer or duty holder to ensure the engineer employed is fully qualified and competent to carry out the work, the test equipment used has been calibrated, and the business has been approved by one of the industry’s regulatory bodies and holds relevant Liability & Professional Indemnity insurance. Certificates must be made available prior to testing.

For total peace of mind, Cardiff PAT Test is independently inspected by both the NICEIC and ECA to ensure we continue to meet and exceed all necessary standards. We can support you to meet your responsibilities regarding Health & Safety in the workplace.

How do I track the amount of electrical equipment used at my place of work?

If you have carried out a PAT Test before, your previous report should confirm the number of items used by your business. If this is the first time you have carried out such a test, you must ascertain the types of appliances that need to be tested and count them manually. Essentially, any appliance or item that has a mains voltage passing through to get to its final destination must have its own individual test.

A computer, for example, does not count as one appliance, as it can often be linked to ten or more individual appliances. Starting at the wall socket, an average computer can consist of two multi-way extension leads that feed into three IEC mains leads, which supply your computer monitor, base unit and printer. Three universal appliance leads may also feed into the individual power supply units for your router, digital camera, scanner and speakers. This set up would now count as fifteen items; when you add in a desk fan, lamp or mobile phone charger, the total number of appliances can soon add up.

If you are responsible for logging the number of appliances, we advise customers to add an extra 10% to the final amount to allow for hidden cables, extension leads and stored appliances.

When is PAT Testing Required?

The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) state, "All electrical systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practical, any danger." This is interpreted as covering the fixed electrical installation, as well as portable and transportable equipment. The regulations also state, "It is the duty of every employer and self-employed person to comply with the provision of these regulations."

Electricity at Work Regulations place a legal responsibility on employers, employees and self-employed persons to comply with the guidelines and take practical steps to ensure a safe working environment; "All employers have a legal obligation to establish and maintain reasonable measures to ensure the safety of staff and visitors to their premises. If an accident occurred due to faulty electrical equipment, the employer is duty bound to prove sufficient measures have been taken." Therefore, these regulations require the implementation of a systematic and regular programme of maintenance, inspection and testing.

The Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) places this obligation in the following circumstances:

  • Where appliances are used by employees
  • Where the public may use appliances in establishments such as hospitals, schools, hotels, shops etc.
  • Where appliances are supplied or hired
  • Where appliances are repaired or serviced

This covers just about every type of business or self-employed person operating in the UK. We regularly provide testing services for all manner of companies, from large engineering firms and call centres to local plumbers and nail bars, theatres and night clubs to mobile discos. To comply with your insurance policies, portable appliance testing must be carried out by a suitably qualified and competent portable appliance engineer.

How often should PAT Testing be carried out?

The guidelines regarding the frequency of PAT Testing vary greatly depending on the appliance, its location, usage and previous test results. We offer the following timescales purely as a recommendation:

Every 3 months: Construction tools, items regularly used outdoors or items used by the public.

Every 6 months: Items that are moved frequently, such as mobile disco equipment, or items that may be stored in a damp, aggressive or workshop environment.

Every 12 months: All other appliances kept in offices, shops, schools and call centres.

We also recommend you check the testing frequency required by your insurance company.

Can I carry out my own PAT Testing in-house?

The IEE/IET Code of Practice states, "If you are a competent person and have a basic knowledge of electricity, you can be perfectly capable of testing appliances for electrical safety. It is, however, recommended that an individual wanting to PAT Test attends a course related to the subject matter. There can be much confusion on what needs PAT Testing, what class an appliance is (and therefore which areas to test), and how often appliances legally need to be tested.

Proof of a company’s competence in PAT Testing is usually found in the form of a course certificate or qualification. A formal examination process for the topic is operated in collaboration with City and Guilds (the awarding body) under the authority of the QCA (The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) who validate and authorise the qualification.

When electrical testing is required, it should be performed by a person who is competent in the safe use of the test equipment and knows how to interpret the results obtained. This person should be capable of inspecting and, where necessary, dismantling it to check the cable connections. Care should always be exercised when conducting tests. Inappropriate tests can damage equipment."

It is not until business owners realise the time and cost implications of purchasing and calibrating test equipment and software, acquiring the relevant City & Guilds qualifications, carrying out the tests and recording the evidence, that they realise the value of our service. From our experience, the vast majority of companies that consider carrying out their own PAT testing eventually decide that it is not worth the expense and disruption to daily business activities. At Cardiff PAT Test, we provide a comprehensive service that enables you to get on with running your business in a safe, controlled environment.

Are you able to test file servers and network equipment?

Wherever possible, file servers and network equipment should always be fully tested. We usually arrange to test server rooms out of operational hours, such as at weekends, on bank holidays or during shutdowns to minimise disruption to your business.

However, if you cannot shut off your equipment, due to file services and telephone systems being considered as low risk items, we are able to carry out a visual only inspection while they are running. However, this limits our inspection capabilities, as we are unable to check the fuse rating, plug wiring, earth resistance and insulation levels. We would therefore strongly advise that if you do choose a visual only inspection on your server room, you arrange for us to carry out a full inspection at the earliest opportunity. We can schedule our inspections to coincide with a system upgrade or general maintenance when your equipment will be switched off.

Does temporary equipment brought in from home need to be tested?

Yes, all appliances used within the business that could put the user or building at risk must be tested.

What items will you test?

Following a thorough onsite survey, we will test all electrical appliances as identified and agreed, except for:

  • Items that we have been specifically asked not to test
  • New items that are in sealed packaging
  • Items that have been marked as scrap, to be thrown out, faulty or not to be used

What are your normal working hours and how long does PAT Testing take?

Our normal working hours are Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.00pm. However, for your convenience, we can also offer an early morning, evening and Saturday service, if required. In a normal office environment or school, we would expect to test approximately 150 items per engineer per day. At other locations, such as factories, workshops and construction sites, due to the condition and type of equipment, we typically test approximately 120 items per engineer per day.

How will my report be presented?

As an environmentally responsible business, all reports are provided in digital format and emailed directly to you. For clients operating with over 1,000 appliances, we can provide your report on a CD. If you do require a paper copy of your report, please do not hesitate to ask, as we can send you a professionally bound report complete with copies of our inspection certificates.