PAT Testing – Answers to frequently asked questions

PAT Testing – Answers to frequently asked questions

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In order to protect members of staff and the general public, employer’s must maintain any equipment with the potential to cause injury in a safe condition according to the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

One of the most common ways to comply with this responsibility is to perform Portable Appliance Testing (PAT), which involves a visual inspection, user check, and practical assessment of electrical equipment.

However, the Health and Safety Executive claims there are many myths about PAT testing, which could mean employers are not fulfilling their lawful obligations. To this end, electrical test equipment distributor Instrotech is on hand to answer some frequently asked questions about PAT testing.

Do I have to carry out PAT testing?

In a word, no. However, it makes sense for employers to adopt a risk-based approach towards PAT testing to ensure electrical equipment is maintained correctly. This includes identifying portable appliances and knowing what they are used for.


As the HSE explains: “If it is used regularly and moved a lot e.g. a floor cleaner or a kettle, testing (along with visual checks) can be an important part of an effective maintenance regime giving employers confidence that they are doing what is necessary to help them meet their legal duties.”

How frequently do portable electrical appliances need to be tested?

There is a misconception that portable electrical appliances need to be tested every year. However, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 only specifies the need to maintain electrical equipment and does not go into detail about what needs to done, by whom, or how frequently.

Even so, the frequency of inspection and testing should be based upon the type of equipment in question and the environment it is used in. “For example, a power tool used on a construction site should be examined more frequently than a lamp in a hotel bedroom,” notes the HSE.

Can anyone perform PAT testing?

In low-risk working environments, a competent member of staff can undertake a user check and visual inspection of portable appliances providing they possess enough knowledge and have received relevant training.

But for combined inspection and testing, more experience and expertise is required. The HSE says the individual tasked with PAT testing must have “the right equipment to do the tests, the ability to use this equipment properly, [and] the ability to properly understand the results.”

How do I know if a PAT test has been carried out?

New portable appliances should be supplied in a safe condition and therefore do not need to be checked, inspected, or tested. However, it is still a good idea to verify that the item has no damage.

With used portable appliances, try to find out whether there is a record of previous PAT tests. Even though this is not a legal requirement either, the HSE says, “a record and/or labelling can be a useful management tool for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the maintenance scheme – and to demonstrate that a scheme exists.”

So there you have it, our handy guide to the most important facts that you need to know regarding the sometimes onerous task of PAT testing in a nutshell.

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