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PAT Testing Legal Requirements

What are the legal requirements for PAT testing? It’s a common question that nobody really knows the answer to until you do a little digging, but here’s the basic thing you need to know:

PAT testing is not actually a legal requirement.

It is, however, an accepted method of testing that ensures that your organisations’ portable appliances adhere to the regulations set down by several different governing bodies. It is therefore your legal responsibility to make sure that electricity at work is constantly maintained and deemed fit for human use, and PAT testing is a means to prove that these types of checks have been carried out.

The Legislation of PAT Testing

The following legislation acts govern over the process of electrical safety and PAT testing.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Under this particular act, it is the employer and employee’s responsibility to ensure the safety of anyone else currently using the work premises. Self-employed people are not exempt from this act.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999

“Every employer shall make suitable and sufficient assessment of:

(a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst at work, and

(b) the risks to ensure the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him or his undertaking.”

It is therefore the employer’s responsibility to assess the danger level of the environment their employees will be working in, and make sure they take the relevant steps to make the area as safe as is feasibly possible.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

Similar to the Electricity at Work Regulations, this regulation applies to using work equipment, and the responsibility of ensuring that that work equipment is maintained to keep it safe for use. It governs over all work equipment (fixed, transportable and portable) that is connected to a source of electrical energy.

It does not apply to fixed installations within a building.

The regulation is as follows:

“Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.”

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

Perhaps the most comprehensive act covering the testing of electrical items, the Electricity at Work Regulations outline what electrical equipment is defined as, as well as the responsibilities it requires.

“All systems shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger.”

“As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger.”

“‘System’ means an electrical system in which all the electrical equipment is, or may be, electrically connected to a common source of electrical energy and includes such source and such equipment”

“‘Electrical Equipment’ includes anything used, intended to be used or installed for use, to generate, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy.”

So Where Does That Leave Me?

It can be a lot of different things to wrap your head around, but is essential that as a company you adhere to these regulations in order to ensure that your electrical equipment (whether portable or otherwise) is officially legal to be used by anyone currently on the premises.

PAT testing is an essential step towards adhering to the many requirements of regulatory bodies, as assessing your equipment thoroughly and then failing/passing that particular appliance means it has been deemed safe by a qualified PAT tester.

Qualifications for PAT Testing

Legally, in order to adhere to these regulations the person carrying out the PAT testing must have adequate training in how the process is carried out.

Technically anyone can carry out PAT testing, but they must have the necessary training to deem them suitable for carrying out the work. The regulations don’t say this outright, but instead say that the person doing the test must be done by a competent person who has been given instruction to perform the checks in a safe manner.

Many organisations rely on outsourced PAT testing companies to carry out the work but it is possible for employees in an organisation to take a PAT testing training course and become fully certified to do the actual testing themselves.

What Needs to Be Done to Adhere to the PAT testing Regulations?

Once you’ve deemed who the ‘competent person’ carrying out the testing procedure will be, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you actually adhere to the regulations defined by the bodies referenced above.

PAT testing actually comes under the body of ‘In-Service Inspection and Testing’, a procedure that requires slightly more than a conventional PAT testing to be fully completed.

As a rule of thumb, you must perform In-Service Inspection and Testing and do the following:

  • User checks – involves the user of the particular portable appliance checking it over for obvious signs of damage.
  • Visual checks are done mainly by sight, but it often requires the user to touch the object as well and look for any obvious damage (such as frayed wiring). The appliance in question should be switched off when carrying out this test as dangerous electrical appliances that have went undetected could have dangerous results
  • Combined inspection and tests – this means carrying out the above points as well as carrying out the full PAT testing procedure to ensure that the appliance is deemed as 100% safe. Always remember this must be carried out by a competent person who has ideally taken a PAT training course.

Written by Barry Atkins