PAT Testing Procedures: Everything You Need to Know
With the advent of technology, people are becoming more reliant on their electrical equipment for everyday activities.
These pieces of equipment often become overlooked and don’t appear as anything special anymore. It could be as simple as a kitchen microwave or as complicated as a fire detector.
These appliances become faulty equipment that can trigger fire hazards and explosions over time. This hazard can easily be avoided by complying with PAT testing regulations.
We will discuss more of this below, so keep reading and let’s begin.
Overview of PAT Testing Process
In recent years, Portable Appliance Testing (PAT test) has become one of the effective ways for equipment owners to check their electrical equipment usage and safety.
PAT testing has become an effective and important requirement in creating a low-risk environment at home and in the workplace.
Compliance with the portable appliance test can be done through different methods, which helps spot most electrical safety defects and maintain every portable appliance at home.
A PAT test could be done through a simple visual examination or with the help of PAT testing equipment.
Why Is Conducting a PAT Test Important?
Although the Health and Safety Executive does not create legal obligations to conduct PAT testing, it’s still an important process that needs to be observed.
The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 enumerates duties and responsibilities an employer must observe, including creating a healthy and safe environment.
A way to achieve this goal is by conducting frequent PAT testing, which ensures that the electrical equipment used in the workplace is safe and conducive.
Another important piece of legislation involved is the Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989, highlighting the importance of an electrical maintenance regime.
A frequent visual examination will suffice for a small, low-risk office space.
What Are the 3 Electrical Classes in PAT Testing?
There are three types of electrical appliances tested during PAT, ranging from most to least dangerous electrical classes.
Class 1 appliances are typically considered the most dangerous and high risk for electrical shock. Class 3 is the least dangerous of all of them.
Class 1 Appliances
Class 1 appliances are considered the most dangerous in the enumeration.
This being the case, class 1 appliances must go through a full PAT insulation test and an earth continuity test.
Doing this helps ensure that the electrical equipment is safe for continued use.
Class 1 appliances typically only have basic insulation and rely on earth protection. The insulation ensures the user doesn’t experience electric shock when handling the wire.
Make sure to watch out for any abrasions or damages on the casing.
Example of Class 1 Appliances:
- Desktop computers
- Extension leads
- Floor standing printers
- Industrial machinery
- Vending machines
Class 2 Appliances
Class 2 appliances are of moderate risk. A PAT insulation test is still required to ensure the efficacy and safety of electrical equipment.
Unlike class 1 appliances, class 2 doesn’t rely on earth protection. Moreover, class 2 appliances have double insulation, making them generally safer.
Example of Class 2 Appliances:
- Vacuum cleaner
Class 3 Appliances
Finally, the least dangerous of them all is class 3 appliances. This being the case, a full PAT test is hardly necessary.
This is because most class 3 appliances have very low voltage, which poses no safety risk to the workplace.
A visual examination suffices to show any damage,
Example of Class 3 Appliances:
- Mobile phones
Before PAT testing begins, there are some pre-testing procedures a user and PAT tester must undertake.
Doing this ensures the user can communicate any observations to the test operative. At the same time, this helps PAT testers identify the environment in which they will be working.
Step 1: Schedule a PAT Testing Session
Remember that PAT testing must be conducted by highly skilled and qualified portable appliance testers.
They must have undergone a special PAT testing course for electrical safety training and testing.
Although this is not a requirement for some appliances, it is still generally preferred. This is especially true for class 1 appliances, which pose a high risk of electrical shock.
After all, PAT testing has much to do with keeping a workplace free from fire hazards.
Make sure to enlist the services of only qualified PAT testers to do the in-service inspection and testing for you.
Step 2: Ask for the User Experience
In most cases, many users would request a portable appliance inspection when it notices something off with their equipment.
When this happens, PAT testers and equipment users must communicate the problem. Even a relatively brief user check is enough to get started.
Knowing the relevant questions to ask is a good starting point:
- What problems are the users starting to experience?
- Does the equipment have any history of defects or electrical shocks?
- Has a previous PAT test been conducted?
Open communication with the user helps testers know where to begin their electrical tests.
Step 3: Make an Inventory of the Electrical Equipment
Users are always encouraged to inventory their portable electrical appliances in the workplace.
Each user is the duty holder of this obligation because they know their appliances better.
It makes conducting a PAT test much easier because it helps ensure that all portable appliances are checked and accounted for.
Step 4: Look for Physical Defects in the Electrical Equipment
The first thing PAT testing involves is physical assessments of the cable, electrical equipment, and plug.
A simple visual examination is a good place to search for potential defects and hazards.
Portable electrical equipment could have visible signs of abrasions on its wiring and even its body. A simple indication like this could already mean electrical work needs to be done.
Step 5: Ask for a Quote
Asking for a quote from the tester is a great way to prepare for the costs involved in PAT testing. It gives users a general overview of how much PAT testing costs for a particular service.
Once testers know the job needed, they can estimate how much everything will cost.
Notwithstanding this, the estimate can still go up and down depending on the final findings of the tester.
There may be defects and problems not spotted during the pre-testing procedure that needs to be addressed.
PAT Testing Steps
Once there’s a go signal to conduct PAT testing, different PAT testing steps and procedures need to be undertaken.
This ensures that testers get all crucial elements in testing portable equipment.
The steps can vary depending on the tester. Rest assured, they are professionals and know what it takes in maintaining portable appliances.
Step 1: Double-Check All Electrical Equipment
Always have an inventory of all the portable appliances in the workplace or construction site.
Double-check that all the appliances are accounted for in the list to ensure thorough testing.
Regardless of the electrical appliances’ status, whether they appear good or not, they must be on the list.
Step 2: Conduct a More Formal Visual Inspection
Before the PAT test begins, a visual inspection of the portable appliances needs to be conducted. Most safety defects can be spotted when you undertake visual inspections.
It’s a good way to comply with work equipment regulations and safety without undergoing full-blown PAT testing.
A simple visual inspection helps spot an electrical safety defect, such as burn marks and exposed wiring. Appliances that need to be checked include the following:
- Extension cords
- Hand-held equipment – drills, hair dryers, steam irons, etc.
- IT equipment – fax machines, photocopiers, telephones, etc.
- Multiway adaptors
- Portable appliances
In all cases, the electrical appliances must be turned off, even though it is just a visual inspection.
Another aspect of visual inspection is looking at the conditions where the electrical appliance operates.
Knowing where to put certain types of appliances is part and part and parcel of PAT testing. A few tips to keep your appliance running properly involve the following:
- There are enough ventilation or cooling systems to prevent equipment from overheating
- The equipment must be close to a power supply and avoid overloading extension cords
- There should be no exposed wires or cables that workers can trip on
Step 3: Do a Manual Inspection With a Portable Appliance Tester
The third step involves the PAT test itself over the electrical appliances, using PAT testing equipment.
A highly qualified person can only conduct this step with sufficient training because PAT testing equipment will most likely be used.
During this step, the electrical appliances undergo a PAT test to ensure that their performance stays adequate within the safety parameters.
A tester determines the tests depending on the equipment and environment. It could be as comprehensive as a full PAT test or simple as insulation testing.
Different types of PAT testing can be conducted to ensure compliance with PAT testing regulations.
A portable appliance tester will be used to develop a risk assessment of the appliance. Several tests will also be conducted on the subject appliance.
Earth continuity test
A PAT test is recommended for appliances that fall under classification 1. This PAT test ensures that the built-in safety measures on the test equipment work in case of a fault.
This ensures that all safety checks are in place should a fire or spark start. The test also checks whether the current still flows to the circuit.
A PAT test measures how much power an electrical appliance consumes when running.
This helps ensure that equipment runs properly and receives sufficient current.
More importantly, it helps determine if there is overloading. One of the common workplace hazards is overloading extension cords and power outlets, which results in fire.
This test measures if the connection travelling from the main appliance down to the cable and outlet is good.
The test is a good measure for identifying whether an appliance receives the minimum nominal voltage to function.
This test helps in measuring insulation resistance against an electric current. It’s an effective measure of determining if the insulation can resist the current.
This helps prevent any electric shocks and sparks.
Once a formal visual inspection and manual inspection have been completed, a competent portable appliance tester will report on its findings.
Before anything else, you must follow several steps to ensure that the electrical testing is successful from start to finish.
Step 1: Label Faulty or Damaged Equipment
Labelling all the faulty or damaged equipment is a crucial part of electrical testing.
It’s a great way for users to identify what portable electrical equipment needs to be replaced or repaired.
More importantly, putting labels is also a great way to prevent other persons from using the business equipment for the time being.
Step 2: Document
Most of the work involved in portable appliance testing happens right after the manual inspection.
There’s a lot of documentation involved, which is also a crucial aspect of PAT testing. Part of the documentation involves taking note of the following details:
- Electrical appliance tested
- Results and readings of all the electrical appliance
- List of faulty equipment that needs to be replaced
- List of equipment that needs to be repaired
All this information must be contained in a single document and should be easily understood by the reader.
Step 3: Report the Findings
Once the PAT testing and inspection have been completed, the assigned competent person must make a full and detailed report of the results.
This includes informing the equipment owner of the actions that need to be done. At the same time, a PAT test certificate will also be issued to show that the equipment is PAT tested.
Simply put, the electrical appliances are safe to use until a new PAT test certificate has been issued.
Having electrical appliances PAT tested gives workers and owners peace of mind.
Be sure to track when the last PAT testing was conducted to know when the next electrical tests should be.
Step 4: Implementation Proper
Now that the paperwork has been complied with, it’s time to move on to the final part of portable appliance testing.
Depending on the tester’s findings, an electrical appliance that fails the PAT test must either be replaced or repaired.
You must throw away defective appliances. Repairing it would only be useless and costly in the long run. Not only that, but it can also pose a serious risk in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we leave with our final words, we’ve answered some of the FAQs about PAT, which you’ll find useful.
What Affects the Electrical Risk Factor of a Workplace?
A part of PAT testing safety is assessing the risk factor of a workplace, which includes the following:
- Where the business is conducted – construction site vs coffee shop
- Type of equipment used – power tools vs coffee machine
- Persons handling the equipment – professional vs ordinary person
The electrical risk factor ranges from low to extremely high.
Offices are a great example of low-risk environments because appliances are moved around less often. More importantly, ordinary offices use less technical or specialised appliances.
Construction sites, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the spectrum and score an extremely high risk.
Combine the chaotic workplace with equipment that requires highly skilled workers, and many things can go wrong.
This being the case, owners operating in extremely high-risk environments have legal obligations and work regulations to uphold.
How Often Do I Need to Conduct a PAT Test?
There’s no specific period for PAT testing frequency.
The frequency generally depends on the type of equipment involved and the environment in which it is used.
For example, electrical equipment used on a construction site must get PAT tested more often than a coffee machine in the workplace.
This being the case, electrical equipment used in high-risk environments must undergo regular PAT tests to avoid potential hazards.
It could be as frequent as once a month, depending on the appropriate intervals your maintenance managers determine.
Do I Need to Seek Help From a Professional When Doing a PAT Test?
PAT testing safety is a serious subject matter that requires risk assessment by a PAT tester.
The inspection process can be done by a competent person familiar with the electrical equipment subject to the test and knowledgeable of PAT visual inspections.
This could include the company electrician or safety personnel.
On the other hand, the testing process itself requires a highly skilled and trained individual. It’s not enough they know of PAT; they must also know how to conduct the test.
This includes several factors, such as the following:
- Knowing the type of equipment necessary to conduct PAT testing and how to use them
- Knowledgeable of how to conduct the PAT testing and interpret the results
- Knowledgeable in how to create an understandable detailed report
How Much Does a PAT Test Cost?
How much PAT testing costs vary depending on several factors:
- Type of appliance subject of the electrical testing
- Environment the equipment is used in
- Number of electrical equipment to be PAT tested
This being the case, the cost of PAT testing over electrical equipment found in low-risk environments can be low to moderate. However, the cost can be higher for a power tool used in high-risk environments.
We always recommend getting a quote from your provider to prepare the costs in advance.
How Long Is a PAT Certificate Valid?
There’s no well-defined period when a PAT testing certification is valid.
Instead, what is required is conducting PAT tests over electrical equipment. We recommend sticking to a regular schedule, such as this one:
- Class I appliances every two years: iron, kettles, microwaves, refrigerators, toasters, etc.
- Class II appliances every year: computers, hair dryers, photocopiers, plastic, power tools, televisions, etc.
Following a regular schedule will ensure electrical equipment safety at home and in a workplace environment.
Portable appliance testing is important in complying with work regulations. PAT inspection and testing have become pillars for fostering a safe, conducive working environment.
Current UK legislation supports PAT tests, giving company owners a legal responsibility to PAT test their electrical equipment for hazards.
As the duty holder of this responsibility, they are tasked with creating low-risk environments for employees to work in.
If your electrical equipment and appliances haven’t undergone electrical PAT tests yet, it’s high time you do.
Whether you have fixed appliances or transportable electrical equipment, it’s time to get PAT tested.