Here at JB Electrical we are used to testing electrical appliances in the home and for businesses to ensure they are safe and in best working order. Ensuring electrical appliances are safe is a regulatory requirement for businesses and is good practice at home. A piece of regulation called ‘The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989’ states that ‘any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition’ (ref). People often have many questions around this subject including: What appliances need testing? How often should they be tested? And, who should be conducting the tests? We will try and clear up some of these conundrums.
What is PAT?
The Government’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website describes portable appliance testing (PAT) as simply ‘the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use’ (ref). The government guidelines suggest that there are three levels of examinations for electrical equipment:
A user check – A simple user check, possibly using a short check list, is a useful part of maintaining electrical equipment. This could include checking appliances are working and whether cables and plugs are in a good condition.
A formal visual inspection - A more formal visual inspection can be carried out by a trained and knowledgeable member of staff. Many faults and safety flaws and be discovered by a thorough visual inspection and should be conducted at regular intervals in high risk environments such as construction sites.
A combined inspection & test (PAT) – A thorough test using specialised equipment producing measurable results. A greater level of knowledge and skill is needed to conduct this thorough inspection. This is often carried out by qualified electricians to ensure the safety of the appliance’s users.
Each of these examinations is more stringent and detailed than the last and various factors need to be considered when choosing which examination is appropriate for each electrical appliance and when they should be conducted. The factors that need to be considered include the age of appliance, it’s uses, the environment it is used in and the industry in which it is being used for, amongst others. The HSE offers a helpful document suggesting intervals for when these checks should be carried out for specific industries and types of appliance.
These are helpful recommendations and although the regulations require that ‘any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition’, they do not make it a legal requirement to test or inspect appliances at certain intervals (ref).
Who should conduct the tests?
The government regulations do not actually state who should carry out tests and maintenance of electronic equipment (ref). However, the person or persons who conduct tests do need to be competent and have the appropriate knowledge base to ensure all appliances are safe. In most ‘low-risk environments’, such as offices, it is fine for a practical member of staff to conduct user checks and visual inspections if they have received appropriate training. However, for the full PAT combined inspection and testing it is sensible to use somebody who has a greater level of skill and knowledge. The HSE states that in order to undertake the tests properly the person must have:
the right equipment to do the tests
the ability to use this test equipment properly
the ability to properly understand the test results
Although it is not a legal requirement to get an electrician to conduct the combined inspection and test (PAT) of your electrical appliances, it is a sensible option especially in high risk environments such as construction sites. Here at JB Electrical we are fully qualified to carry out portable appliance testing (PAT) on all electrical appliances for domestic, commercial and industrial environments. Please feel free to contact us with any enquiries.