Last updated: 30.11.22

What is the Legal Requirement for PAT Testing?

PAT testing is a process for checking the safety of electrical appliances in a range of different industries. Because of the standardised nature of these checks, many people assume that PAT testing is a legal requirement, but this isn’t exactly the case.

The rules on PAT testing are actually influenced by a range of different pieces of legislation, meaning that those responsible are encouraged to PAT test but aren’t legally obligated. In this article, we delve deeper into portable appliance testing regulations and legislation to help you understand the legal requirements for PAT testing.

What is PAT Testing?

PAT testing, or Portable Appliance Testing, is a term used to describe the examination of electrical equipment and electrical appliances to determine if they are safe for use in the work environment.

Users can normally find electrical defects with a brief visual inspection of the appliance. However, some defects can only be found when they have been tested, so PAT testing helps to keep users safe and prevent any electrical malfunctions that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Anyone who carries out PAT testing should be competent and have knowledge of PAT testing laws and processes and be aware of the risks involved. You don’t need a particular qualification in order to carry out a PAT test, but you are expected to have completed some kind of training to give you the necessary insight into conducting the test successfully.

Legal Requirements for PAT Testing

There is no specific law which directly states that you must perform Portable Appliance Testing as part of your responsibilities as an employer. However, doing regular PAT testing is still highly recommended, as it helps you to comply with several regulations which do specify specific safety standards which must be met. 

These include the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. These regulations cover a wide range of safety standards within workplaces, with sections in each either directly or indirectly outlining that electrical appliances must be maintained to ensure the safety of any employees. 

Electricity at Work Regulations (1989)

This piece of legislation applies to the use of electricity in the workplace and assigns responsibilities to both the employer and the employees that use electrical appliances. The element of the Electricity at Work Regulations that affects PAT testing is the guidance that electrical systems and appliances must be checked and maintained to prevent any danger, which might involve carrying out PAT tests.

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998)

This regulation is sometimes referred to as ‘PUWER’ and makes it a legal requirement for all workplace electrical equipment to be suitable for its intended use. This involves electrical appliances being safe to use, which a PAT test can help to ensure.

Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)

The Health and Safety at Work Act is a key piece of health and safety legislation in the UK that makes it a legal requirement for employers to ensure their workplaces are safe for employees. This involves ensuring that the equipment and appliances used in the workplace aren’t hazardous for employees, which PAT testing guidance might be used to check.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)

This piece of legislation outlines the steps that employers should take to manage the health and safety of their employees while at work, building on what is outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974). This is mainly enforced by encouraging employers to carry out risk assessments, which might involve PAT testing as a way of controlling a potential hazard.

The most efficient way of addressing the above regulations is by scheduling regular Portable Appliance Testing to ensure you are meeting safety standards and can provide evidence of testing if an accident does arise. Checking electrical equipment with a PAT test is the easiest way of discovering potential electrical faults and defects before they become a larger problem or potential health hazard for your business.

Who is Responsible for PAT Testing?

As we’ve already seen from the relevant legislation, most health and safety laws make it the responsibility of an employer to ensure that the electrical appliances in their workplace are safe to use. Therefore, it is the employer’s responsibility to either carry out PAT testing or organise for someone else to come and do it.

In order to carry out a proper PAT test, you are required to be a ‘competent individual’. This means that you have the necessary background and experience to complete a PAT test safely and also know how to use relevant PAT testing equipment to check that an appliance is safe to use.

What Needs to be PAT Tested?

PAT testing should be done on any appliance that is not part of a fixed installation. If it uses a plug and a socket or a flexible cable to get power, it likely qualifies as a portable appliance.

You can separate all appliances that require annual PAT testing into five different categories:

  • Fixed appliances: Any appliance connected to an electricity supply with a permanently connected flex, such as a hand dryer, electric oven or machine tool
  • Stationary appliances: Any appliance that cannot be easily moved between locations, like a fridge or a washing machine
  • Handheld appliance: Any appliance that is small and portable enough to be carried around in your hands, like a smartphone, tablet or games console
  • IT appliance: Any appliance used in IT that has software or firmware designed for computing, such as a monitor, keypad or power cable
  • Moveable appliance: Any appliance that can be moved between locations but has to be plugged in to work, like a printer or photocopier

Who is Responsible for Health and Safety Standards in the UK?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for setting and maintaining safety standards for businesses within the UK by monitoring and inspecting businesses alongside local authorities and insurers. They expect that PAT testing will be routinely done on all relevant appliances, and may hand out fines of up to £20,000 if it is found that the standards outlined in any of the aforementioned regulations are not being met. 

More major infractions found in relation to these regulations may see serious prosecution and can carry jail time in addition to unlimited fines.


What does PAT testing mean?

PAT testing means portable appliance testing, which is a kind of electrical check that portable electrical appliances should regularly undergo to ensure that they’re still safe to use. It’s done by carrying out visual checks of an appliance and then using PAT testing equipment to ensure that the internal elements of the appliance are also working correctly.

Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

PAT testing is not a legal requirement. However, employers are required by law to ensure that their electrical equipment is in good working order and will not pose a risk to the employees that are using it, and PAT testing is one of the best, standardised ways to ensure this.

Landlords are also legally required to ensure that the appliances they give their tenants are safe to use, which PAT testing can also be used to check.

How often is PAT testing required for landlords?

There are no official PAT testing regulations for landlords that state how often they should test the appliances in their properties. However, it’s recommended that the best way to keep tenants safe is by carrying out PAT tests every 1-2 years, along with PAT testing appliances before a new tenant moves in.


Understanding the legal requirements for PAT testing can be difficult at first, as it's a process that is connected to a variety of legislation but there isn’t actually a specific law determining if and when it needs to be done. As with most health and safety situations, if you’re the person responsible then it’s always best to be cautious and carry out recommended safety checks like PAT testing in order to keep your workplace and your employees safe.

If you want to know more about Portable Appliance Testing, including the stages involved in PAT testing and what is required for an appliance to pass each stage of PAT testing, then our ‘How to Carry Out PAT Testing’ training course will give you the insight you need to understand Portable Appliance Testing in more detail.