The HSE has published new revised guidance on portable appliance testing (PAT) in an effort to stamp out the confusion which currently exists over testing requirements.
It is estimated that office based businesses are currently wasting around £30 million per year on unnecessary testing often due to misleading advice provided by companies offering testing.
The HSE said that it is a myth that every portable electrical appliance in the workplace needs to be tested once a year. In reality the law only requires an employer to ensure that electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger. It does not stipulate that every item has to be tested or how often the testing needs to be carried out. The level of maintenance required should be determined according to the risk of an item becoming faulty and how the equipment is constructed.
Launching the revised guidance on portable appliance testing (PAT), HSE’s Chairman Judith Hackitt commented on the fact that many companies were being misled over the legal requirements and were paying for testing that was not needed. She said “Businesses are responsible for protecting their employees, but they shouldn’t be wasting their money on unnecessary checks that have no real benefit.”
The new simple to follow guidance has been revised in response to the publication last year of the Lofstedt report on health and safety legislation which concluded that the legal requirements in respect of the maintenance of electrical appliances were too widely applied resulting in costly and unnecessary testing.
The new guidance “INDG 236 – Maintaining Portable Electric Equipment in Low Risk Environments” explains the precautions that need to be taken to prevent danger from portable or moveable electrical equipment in low-risk environments, such as offices, shops, some parts of hotels and residential care homes.
Download the new guidance here.
What is PAT testing?
Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use.
Is PAT testing required by law?
The law simply requires an employer to ensure that their electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger. It does not say how this should be done or how often. In assessing the level of maintenance required employers need to consider the nature and construction of the equipment, what it is being used for, how frequently and the environment in which it is being used. Information on suggested frequencies of inspection and testing can be found in the guidance note.
Does all equipment need a PAT test?
Not every item needs a portable appliance test. In some cases a simple user check and visual inspection is enough e.g. checking appliances for obvious signs of damage such as loose or frayed cables and checking inside plugs for internal damage, correct fuses and bare wires. This visual examination is essential as some types of electrical safety defect can’t be detected by testing alone.
However other types of equipment may require combined inspection and testing by a competent person. Guidance regarding suggested testing regimes can be found in “Maintaining Portable Electric Equipment in Low-risk environments”
Who can undertake a PAT test?
A PAT test does not need to be carried out by an electrician but the person doing the testing work needs to be competent to do so. In many low risk environments a sensible member of staff can undertake visual inspections, if they have sufficient training, but a greater level of knowledge and experience is required to perform the tests. The person performing the tests must also have the correct equipment and know how to interpret the test results.