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Last updated: 26.03.19

What is PAT Testing?

Here in the United Kingdom, we enjoy high standards of workplace safety, mainly as the result of effective legislation that ensures that businesses of all sizes follow best practice when it comes to everything from fire safety to manual handling. PAT testing is part of just one of these requirements. Whether you’re looking to set up a small business, or you’re moving into an office management role, then PAT testing is something that you need to know about. In this article, we’re going to go through the basics of what it is and where you can find out more.

Note: PAT stands for Portable Appliance Testing, and therefore ‘PAT testing’ is technically a redundant phrase. However, usage in this way is extremely common and can be encountered anywhere.

The Law

Under UK law, all appliances and electrical wiring installations must be safe for customers, employees, tenants and anyone else. The only premises not covered by the Health and Safety Executive are residential buildings. Law states that “All [electrical] systems shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far as reasonably practical, such danger.”,

This means that if you’re a business owner or someone responsible for safety at work, then the HSE does require that you take reasonable steps to ensure that appliances, including computers, televisions, printers, kitchen units and other equipment are safe to use.

One of the important things to understand is that the law does not actually go into firm detail about what is required in terms of making sure that appliances are safe. As a result, it’s up to the business or individual to show that the appliance is safe to use. This is where the PAT comes in. Formally an ‘in-service inspection & testing of electrical equipment’, it’s designed to show electrical safety. So while the PAT in itself is not a legal requirement, it is the recognised standard for showing that a business and its appliances are meeting safety standards.

The Process

The PAT test is fairly straightforward, and the exact process will vary slightly depending on the appliance being tested. Generally the test will be carried out by an external company, but if there are trained persons within the company, then they can undertake the test.

Testing will generally involve a visual inspection to see if there are any obvious issues with the appliance such as damaged wiring, exposed parts or similar. According to the HSE, the vast majority of dangerous issues are actually spotted at this stage, with no special electrical testing required.

Once a visual inspection has been carried out, the tester will check resistance, continuity and other electrical issues using specialist equipment. If there is a problem, then this needs to be communicated to the appliance owner, and the unit must not be used until repaired and retested. Once the appliance passes, it will be given a sticker to show when it was tested and when the retest is due, which is generally yearly.

Find Out More

If you feel you need more instruction on how PAT testing works, including some of the more technical aspects and difference between certain types of appliance, then training may be helpful. Here at Virtual College, we’re leaders in delivering e-learning to businesses looking to improve their level and health and safety. Our range of courses includes a PAT Testing course, which is designed as an introductory course than individuals can use in conjunction with equipment manuals to carry out their own PAT on appliances. While the course will not result in an accredited PAT testing certificate, it does meet CPD guidelines. Click here to find out more about this course.

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