Your guide to PAT testing

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Your guide to PAT testing

If you're looking to get PAT testing (or electrical equipment testing) carried out for your commercial or domestic property, we're here to help.

This article will help you understand what PAT testing means, what the PAT testing procedure involves and answer your frequently asked questions about what needs to be tested.

What is PAT testing?

PAT testing is when electrical equipment is tested for safety.

This procedure is done through different types of visual and electronic tests. When testing is complete, you will receive a certificate to show that your electrical equipment has been tested and is safe.

PAT testing is also known as electrical equipment testing and portable appliance testing.

Why is PAT testing important?

PAT testing is important as it can help ensure that your electrical equipment is safe. Damaged equipment is more likely to cause an electric shock or fire, which can potentially harm your staff and customers, as well as damage your building.

PAT testing can also tell you when equipment is ready to be replaced ahead of time. This means that you don't have to struggle to get your equipment replaced or repaired if it suddenly stops working.

Finally, PAT testing can provide you with a ready-made asset list of all the electrical equipment you have on-site.

Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 makes it your responsibility to make sure all your electrical equipment is safe to use. This means you should regularly inspect, test and maintain electrical appliances to make sure they’re compliant.

If you don’t do this, you could be putting yourself, your employees and your business at risk.

More information about PAT testing and the law

Do I need PAT testing for my insurance?

Some insurance companies ask that businesses have proof of the PAT testing procedure being carried out. This is in order to prove that the electrical equipment on their premises is in a safe condition. 

If someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of faulty electrical equipment, an insurance company may refuse to accept a claim.

Proof of PAT testing may also reduce your business premiums when it comes to renewal.

What needs testing in a PAT inspection?

Broadly speaking, anything that is plugged into a power source needs to be tested as part of the PAT testing procedure.

This includes everything from the office photocopier and computer monitors, to the kettle and microwave in the kitchen.

'Portable appliance testing' is not entirely accurate, as PAT testing also applies to fixed appliances that can't be moved.

More information about what needs PAT testing

Can I carry out my own PAT testing?

You can PAT test your own equipment, but we wouldn't recommend it.

PAT testing needs to be carried out by a 'competent' person, ideally an electrician or an electrical engineer.

Unless you have been trained to operate a PAT testing machine safely and know what to look out for, we would advise that you allow an electrician or electrical engineer to carry out testing on your behalf.

If not, you may put yourself or someone else at risk.

How long does a PAT test take?

It depends on how many items need testing. The more items that need testing, the longer PAT testing will take.

The building also plays a part too. An open-plan office will take less time to test than a building with several offices across multiple floors.

How often should I carry out PAT testing?

The 5th edition In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment code of practice recommends that you should carry out a risk assessment to determine how frequently your equipment should be checked.

This will take into consideration:

  • How often the equipment is used
  • The environment it is used in
  • Who is using it
  • The lifespan of the equipment

For example, electrical equipment in a busy factory will need testing more often than computers and monitors in an office.

Many people think that you need to have PAT testing carried out once a year, but this isn't always the case.

What is tested during a PAT inspection?

We carry out a number of tests when we test your electrical equipment. The general PAT testing procedure is:

  1. A visual examination – We look for any damage that may cause an appliance to be faulty. Visual checks are extremely important as most fails happen at this stage. Things we look out for include: 
    • Cracks and dents in the product casing
    • Scorch marks and overheating
    • Damage to the leads or plug
    • If the right size fuse has been used
    • Whether the appliance has adequate ventilation
  2. An in-depth inspection and test – This helps us pick up on any damage that may not be immediately visible. It includes:
    • Earth continuity checks (also known as the Earth bond test or Earth resistance test). This check makes sure there is a satisfactory connection between the case of the appliance and the plug's Earth pin. This connection reduces the risk of electric shock when the case is touched
    • Lead polarity checks. This check makes sure that the lead of your appliance is wired correctly
    • Insulation resistance checks. This check makes sure that the insulation around the live parts of the appliance have a high level of resistance
    • With microwave ovens, we carry out an additional leakage test. Microwaves can get damaged over time, causing radiation leakages. If the radiation is above an acceptable level, we would recommend replacing the microwave
  3. Function check - Once we’ve completed these tests, we conduct a function check to ensure that everything works as it should

If there are any remedial works that need doing when PAT testing, for example, a fuse needs changing or a plug needs replacing, our engineers will carry this work out as part of the procedure.

How long does PAT testing last?

It depends. If you have carried out a risk assessment, this will help you determine how long to leave between tests.

When your PAT testing is carried out, we apply a label to your equipment that specifies the date it was tested. This helps you to determine when testing needs to be rescheduled.

When we carry out testing we will suggest a retesting date based on the type of equipment and where it is located, but this is just a recommendation.

Can PAT testing damage equipment?

No - the PAT testing procedure won't damage your electrical equipment if it is done correctly. 

If you have sensitive or older electrical equipment, your engineer will take this into consideration when testing it.

What happens after the test?

When we have tested a piece of electrical equipment, there are two different outcomes:

  • Pass - If the equipment passes, we put one of our barcoded labels on it to show that it has passed inspection. You can then use it as normal!
  • Fail - if the equipment fails, we label it and remove it from the office environment so that nobody is tempted to use it. You can then decide if you want to get it repaired or dispose of it safely

What happens if I fail a PAT test?

PAT test fail label

The good news is that you can't fail a PAT test as such. If individual pieces of electrical equipment fail the inspection procedure, they will be labelled and 'quarantined' so they can't be used. 

Equipment can fail a PAT test for several different reasons, including:

  • The equipment won't power on
  • The casing is cracked or damaged
  • The equipment has exposed parts
  • The incorrect fuse has been fitted
  • The cable or plug is damaged or worn
  • The equipment fails to pass an Earth resistance test, polarity test or insulation resistance check
  • The equipment has been recalled or is counterfeit

In certain situations, the engineer will be able to repair the electrical equipment. For example, if the equipment has the wrong fuse, they can replace it with the right one and retest the equipment there and then to see if it passes.

If individual pieces of equipment fail inspection, we will let you know. You will then be able to get the equipment replaced or arrange for someone to come in and repair the fault for you.

What is included in the PAT testing certificate?

When your testing is complete, we will send you a PAT testing certificate that comes in two parts.

The first part of the certificate looks like this. This is a summary of your testing, which shows you are compliant.

Certificate of compliance - PAT testing
The PAT test certificate will include the address that the electrical equipment testing took place at and how long the certification is valid.

The PAT test certificate will also have an authorised signature from the company that carried out the testing.

The second part of the certificate lists the equipment that has been checked, broken down by room or area. 

Electrical equipment testing report

  • All equipment is given a reference number. At Hawkesworth, this reference number is on each individual label too for easy identification
  • The test date for each piece of equipment is listed, alongside a recommended retest date
  • The name of the engineer who tested each piece of equipment will be supplied
  • The report will list which equipment has passed inspection and what has failed inspection.

At Hawkesworth, we provide photos of what has failed inspection so you can see for yourself why any equipment is no longer compliant. For example, this photo of a plug that failed as the cable had melted.

Example of a melted cable
 
Many of our customers find the photos useful as they can use them to train their staff how to look out for dangerous equipment in the future!

Does a PAT testing certificate have an expiry date?

Our PAT testing certificate has an expiry date, based on the recommended retest date in the report.

How long the certificate is valid for depends on what is being tested and the environment it is tested in. For example, heavy-duty manufacturing equipment in a busy factory will need re-testing sooner than IT equipment in an office.

Bear in mind that because PAT testing is not a legal requirement, you do not have to have your next round of testing completed by the expiry date on the certificate. This is a recommendation from the engineer who carried out your testing.

What does a PAT testing certificate prove?

This certificate shows your business is compliant with regulations including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989).

What can you do with a PAT testing certificate?

  • If your business has public liability insurance, your insurance company may request a copy of your certificate to show your electrical equipment is safe
  • You can include a copy of your certificate in any tender applications to show your company’s commitment to health & safety
  • If you have a certification file at reception, you can include your certificate in there to show visitors you operate safely
  • If you are a landlord, having a certificate to show to interested tenants is an excellent way to demonstrate the electrical equipment you provide (for example fridges and microwaves) works and is safe

How much does PAT testing cost?

It depends on how many units need to be inspected, as well as the needs of your business.

When you reach out to us, let us know roughly how many units will need to be tested. We can then provide you with a quote based on this number. 

We offer competitive rates so if you are interested in a free no-obligation quote, get in touch with us today.

When should I replace my electrical equipment?

Electrical equipment does not last forever. Old and malfunctioning electrical equipment not only takes longer to work, but can be dangerous too.

One in eight house fires is caused by faulty electrical equipment, so it is important to look for signs that your appliances may start to cause problems.

Cracked or damaged casing

Damaged casing

Although many electrical appliances get the odd scratch and dent, cracked casing can cause an issue.

Cracked casing can expose the electrical wires/components in an appliance, increasing the risk of electric shock and fire damage. It can also expose dangerous working parts; for example, if you have a fan and the casing exposes the blades.

Once, we had to fail a microwave that the door had been pulled clean off of!

Damaged cords

A melted cable

Cords and cables get damaged over time. Extreme temperatures, tugging, pulling and friction all cause tears, cracking and melting.

Damaged cords mean the wires inside the cord are exposed, increasing the risk of electric shock and fire.

If this is the case, the cable or the appliance will need to be replaced.

Why damaged electrical cords and cables need to be replaced

Unusual noises

The thud of the washing machine, the ping of the microwave… all electrical appliances make noises as they carry out day-to-day tasks.

However, if you hear an unusual sound that wasn’t there before or is louder than normal, it could be a sign you need to replace your electrical equipment.

If you hear a buzzing, hissing or humming sound coming from the plug or appliance, this could indicate an electrical problem. Unplug the equipment at the mains and don’t use it until you get it checked out.

Weird smells

Is there an unusual smell in the home or office that won’t go away? This may mean there is an issue with your electrical equipment and it may be time to replace it.

If you catch a burnt plastic or fishy smell (this smell comes from the heat resistant chemicals used), this may mean something is overheating. Get in touch with an electrician straight away who will be able to find out where the smell is coming from.

Flickering lights

If you’ve spotted that the lights flicker, blink and dim on your equipment, it could be a sign it needs replacing. 

Flickering and blinking lights may mean your appliance is trying to use more electrical current than it can handle. Alternatively, there may be loose connections that could cause a fire risk.

Equipment hot to the touch

If your electrical equipment feels warm when you touch it, this could mean there is an issue. 

The wiring in your appliance could be failing, generating heat that could pose a fire risk.

Higher energy bills

If you get a nasty shock when you open your electricity bill, it may mean your electrical equipment is faulty.

Damaged equipment needs to consume more electricity to function, resulting in a higher than normal bill.

When it becomes too expensive to keep repairing

Like a car, when your electrical equipment becomes uneconomical to repair, it’s probably time to replace it.

Older equipment relies on obsolete and hard-to-find parts, meaning it can be costly to keep it functional.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you be compliant when it comes to electrical equipment.


Next blog: A guide to EICR for landlords