Portable appliance testing, or PAT for short, is the routine testing of electric appliances to ensure that they are functioning safely and do not pose a risk to users. The process itself broadly involves a cursory visual inspection to check that flex wiring is in good condition, verification of insulation soundness between any exposed metal and the current-carrying components, and a test to ensure earthing continuity. The specific pass/fail criteria for each test depends on the equipment being tested, however.

Legal Obligations
A PAT test is not only highly important in terms of protecting people from harm, but are supported by legislation applying to employers. Health and safety laws, specifically the Electricity at Work Act 1989, dictates that any electrical appliances with the capacity to cause harm must be maintained in safe, working condition. As an employer, failing to do so carries liability for injury or death arising from the improperly maintained appliance.

What these regulations don’t specify, however, is the type of testing or who should carry it out. In this sense, portable appliance inspection and testing itself is not strictly a legal obligation. Testing is, however, the easiest way to guarantee that you fulfil your duty to keep your electrical equipment in safe condition.

A Practical Approach to PAT
In many instances, carrying out a PAT test needn’t even involve hiring external contractors, as there is testing equipment available which meets the European directives and the British Standard Codes of Practice, which electrical equipment manufacturers themselves must meet. This testing equipment produces results that can be interpreted without the help of an electrical technician.

As for the frequency of testing required, this is also not specified by regulation. The frequency of testing must simply be sufficient to ensure the continued safe operation of all electrical equipment. Ultimately, different appliances will require different levels of inspection and maintenance. If in doubt, consult the manufacturer for more detail on the attention required to keep your equipment functioning safely and legally.

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