Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is PAT Testing?
PAT Testing stands for Portable Appliance Testing. It's the common term for what is more formally, and correctly, known as In-Service Inspection & Testing of Electrical Equipment. The reason why this is the more accurate name is because PAT Testing isn't something that is done to just portable devices like irons and kettles, it's required for fridges, TVs, washing machines for example. Put simply, PAT Testing is THE certified way of ensuring that the electrical equipment and devices used by your customers, employees, clients or tenants are safe to use. The full name helps to explain this service further:
- In- service: PAT Testing covers all equipment that is in use, as opposed to electrical equipment which may be on the premises as stock items for sale
- Inspection: This is the first step in PAT Testing. It's very important that before an item is tested for electrical safety it is inspected for damage, missing parts, added parts, unsuitable parts, damage and equipment information (power, appliance classification, voltage, certifications).
- Testing: If equipment has passed the visual inspection then it is tested for electrical safety. This involves putting the equipment through a series of electrical tests using known currents and voltages, recording results and determining whether the specific safety features built into the equipment will perform if there is a fault situation.
- Electrical Equipment: This is any appliance or tool that is plugged into the mains power supply for it to be used.
2. Wouldn't PAT Testing be covered by my electrician?
Not necessarily. An electrician installs, maintains and ensures that the fixed wiring of a building is safe to use. Unless they are qualified to PAT Test and have the necessary machine, they'll not cover the appliances, tools or equipment that plug into a mains socket. It is definitely something to ask your electrician, but don't just assume your appliances are covered just because you've had the electrician round.
3. Is PAT Testing a legal requirement?
No. PAT Testing is not a legal requirement but there are several legal Acts and Regulations that state you have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all persons using your premises. You can read more here on this.
4. What does PAT Testing involve?
PAT Testing is a three step process:
- Formal Visual Inspection: This looks for damage on the outside of the appliance and socket as well as damage on the inside. It also checks the finer details marked on the plug, fuse, flexible cable and the appliance information label. Around 95% of appliance failures come from this first step, which goes to show just how important this stage is in the process. Only once the appliance has passed this stage can it be tested for electrical safety.
- Electrical Tests: This is where we use a premium machine to test the following:
- Earth Continuity - the presence and strength of the earth path from exposed metal parts on the appliance body, through the power lead, down to the plug. (Class I appliances only)
- Insulation Resistance - integrity of the insulation material surrounding or supporting the live parts within the appliance.
- Polarity - only applicable to extension leads. This tests the continuity down the live and neutral wires, between the plug and the socket and indicates whether the socket end is wired correctly and not reversed polarity.
- Functional Check: It's really important to test if the appliance actually works and ensure that there are no faulty or stuck buttons for example that could overheat and eventually cause a fire. To the average PAT Tester this stage is seen as a waste of time and money, but for the reason above, it really isn't. You can't put a price on safety so it's something that I do every single time. I may have to involve you or another user if the product is functionally complex. Either way, it's a critical part of the three step process.
5. How much does PAT Testing cost?
This varies a lot, from as low as 99p per item up to £11 per item. It depends on the volume of items per project and also on the items' complexity. It is unrealistic to charge 99p per item and still be commercially sound unless the quality of the PAT Testing service is impaired. Therefore I would be very wary of receiving a quote that sounds that good. You could be putting you, your customers and staff at risk. The money saved is not worth that kind of risk.
6. Do you have to be an electrician to be a PAT Tester?
No you don't. An electrician can also be a PAT Tester and a PAT Tester can also be an electrician but you can definitely be one without the other as they involve different qualifications and certificates.
7. How often do I need to have everything PAT Tested?
Many people are of the opinion that appliances must be tested every year/12months. However, for some types of appliances or for those used in certain environments, it would pose a risk to leave it longer than 6 months, whereas others could be left for longer than 12months. It's really up to the user/employer to risk assess each appliance and decide how often it should be PAT Tested. Here's a few questions that help to risk assess an appliance:
- How much use does the appliance get? Higher usage = higher risk
- How much does the appliance move around? High levels of movement = higher risk
- Is the user trained to use the appliance? Untrained = higher risk
- Is the appliance being used in a harsh environment? Wet/dirty environment = higher risk
- Is the appliance Class I (have an earth wire) or Class II (without an earth wire, double insulated instead)? Class I = higher risk
- Is the appliance regularly maintained? No = higher risk
8. Does every appliance need PAT Testing?
You need to ensure that every appliance, tool, device, piece of equipment that plugs into the mains power supply is safe to be used. It is all these items that need to be PAT Tested.
If you have a question that isn't answered here, please do get in touch. I'll be happy to help.