Here in the United Kingdom, we enjoy high levels of workplace safety, mainly as the result of effective legislation that ensures that businesses of all sizes take precautions when it comes to everything from fire safety to manual handling.
The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) cites that every piece of electrical equipment that can cause injury is routinely checked to be in a safe condition for customers, employees, tenants and all who may be affected by it. PAT testing is a key part of adhering to these requirements.
Whether you’re looking to set up a small business, become a landlord, or you’re moving into an office management role, PAT testing is essential for ensuring the safety of colleagues and customers. In this article, we explain the basics of PAT testing, including what it is, its purpose, and how much it costs.
PAT Testing is a routine inspection of certain categories of electrical appliances to ensure that they are safe for use in workplaces. While PAT testing is usually carried out by an external company, trained personnel within a company can undertake the training and complete the tests themselves.
Most qualified PAT testers are electricians, but there is no requirement to be in this profession to train as a qualified PAT tester. Anyone can work their way into the role.
According to the Electricity at Work Regulations, every piece of electrical equipment that has the potential to cause physical injury must be tested to see if they are in a safe condition for customers, employees, tenants and all who may be affected by it.
While the law does not go into firm detail on what is required to make sure that appliances are working safely, it does state the necessity of doing so. So, PAT testing is the recognised procedure for proving that a business and its appliances are meeting these safety standards.
PAT testing plays a very important role in maintaining the safety of those in the workplace, including workers, colleagues and customers. No matter whether this is a construction site or cafe, the procedure must be completed in order to protect everyone on-site from potential risks.
Failing to do so can result in people getting injured and electrical appliances deteriorating to the extent that expensive repairs are required, temporarily putting businesses at a standstill. So, PAT tests play an integral role in the running of businesses today.
As we know, the Electricity at Work Regulations states that any electric appliance that can cause injury must be inspected to ensure that it is in a safe condition to be used and present around anyone who could be affected by it.
This applies to devices and machines in buildings that do not fall under the bracket of being residential. So, any appliance that connects to the wall socket or a generator in a workplace must be routinely PAT tested.
This includes fixed appliances, stationary appliances, IT equipment, cables, wires, chargers, moveable appliances and handheld devices. Therefore, this can include everything from electric drills to kettles.
We have listed appliances that regularly undergo PAT testing below:
A full PAT test involves both a visual inspection and a thorough examination by a trained PAT tester. Common visual indications of issues include damaged wiring, signs of burning, cracks and exposed parts.
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 the apparatus has been repaired and retested.
While most safety defects can be spotted visually, there is also a significant number that can only be found by testing. Therefore, the PAT tester must fulfil both tasks in order to avoid missing defects that can only be spotted by one of the methods.
When an appliance passes, it will be given a sticker to show when it was tested, that it has been deemed safe to use and when it is due to be retested. While the law does not specify when retests should be undertaken, they tend to be done every year to prevent appliances from deteriorating to the extent of being a danger to those around them.
Given that PAT testing plays a crucial role in protecting employees, tenants and customers from electrical injuries, retests tend to be done every year.
However, this can depend on the type of device or machinery. The higher the potential for causing harm, the more often an appliance should be tested. For example, a power tool should be regularly inspected at a more frequent rate than a lamp in a hotel bedroom.
The exact process of PAT testing varies slightly depending on the appliance being tested. However, as a general rule, appliances should be PAT tested every year in order to ensure that they stay in a safe condition for those around them and do not deteriorate too dramatically in the period between tests.
A single PAT test tends to last between 2-5 minutes. However, the whole procedure can end up taking a significant portion of the day if you are assessing multiple appliances. Along with the big appliances such as generators, you will also need to examine smaller ones such as sockets and kettles.
The duration can also vary depending on the size of the workplace. Travelling from devices in one location to other appliances in the next sometimes involves a several-minute walk. Over the course of the day, this can rack up and significantly increase the time spent needed to complete a job.
Thus, the size of the building and the location of the appliances has a huge impact on how long PAT testing lasts.
PAT testing stands for ‘portable appliance testing’ and refers to the process of checking electrical appliances and equipment to see if they are safe to use in the workplace or require some maintenance. These assessments are critical as they ensure that the risk of accidental injury stays low and that people visiting and working in the building can do so in safe conditions.
Faulty electronics can be rather dangerous, potentially causing electric shock, severe burns, arc-exposure injuries and even explosions. With such serious consequences at play, PAT testing plays an integral role in ensuring the safety of customers and colleagues.
Most PAT testing companies charge a flat fee for the first 10-50 appliances then a smaller fee for each appliance tested after those. On average, the flat fee lies somewhere between £50-£100 and then further appliances cost an extra £1.00 - £2.50, with the higher the number of appliances being tested, the lower the cost incurred.
So, the cost of PAT testing depends on how many appliances are getting assessed. Other common varying factors include:
In some circumstances, the appliances may be located in close proximity, reducing the time needed to complete the job and thus, its cost. However, some locations such as schools and offices may require you to journey significant distances to get to different appliances. This will cause the job to take a longer time and thus, result in a higher cost.
Like with most things, the geographical location of the contractor also comes into play. For example, if the appliances and the PAT tester are based in London or other areas of Southern England, the PAT test is likely to be more expensive than in other areas of the UK.
While the Electricity at Work Regulations are very clear in saying that potentially dangerous electrical equipment must be maintained in safe working condition, they do not actually specify how frequently they should be tested for this.
Therefore, the law is a little unclear on how often electrical appliances should be tested, so it’s a good idea to PAT test everyday appliances every few years and larger, more dangerous appliances more frequently.
PAT testing plays an important role in ensuring the safety of customers, tenants and colleagues. You may own your own business and want to ascertain the knowledge to complete PAT tests by yourself, are a qualified electrician looking to add this to your CV or simply want to branch out and add this skill to your repertoire.
Whatever your circumstance, PAT testing is an incredibly useful skill to master and plays a pivotal role in how many businesses run today.
If you’re looking to become a qualified PAT tester, and have an in-depth understanding of the technical aspects of testing each type of application, Virtual College offers an online ‘PAT Testing Course’ that shares plenty of useful information about how to become a qualified PAT tester.