Your guide to PAT testing

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.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to PAT testing that will answer your questions. This article will help you understand the meaning of PAT testing, what the PAT testing procedure involves, and answer your frequently asked questions about what needs to be tested.

If your PAT testing question hasn’t been answered in this guide to PAT testing, get in touch with us – we’d be happy to help!

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 electrical 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?

We’re often asked if a qualified electrician has to PAT test equipment.

While you can PAT test your own electrical equipment, we wouldn’t recommend it.

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? Do I need to PAT test every year?

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 electrical equipment should be checked.

This will take into consideration:

  • How often the electrical equipment is used
  • The environment it is used in
  • Who is using it
  • The lifespan of the electrical 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 Class 1, Class 2 and 110v equipment?

You may hear electrical equipment broken down as ‘Class 1’ and ‘Class 2’ equipment.

  • Class 1 equipment is electrical equipment that relies on earth for protection and includes kettles, washing machines and microwaves
  • Class 2 equipment is electrical equipment that does not rely on earth for protection and includes TVs, hairdryers and desktop printers

As well as Class 1 and Class 2 equipment, you may also hear of ‘110v equipment’. Most electrical equipment that plugs into the mains runs on 240v. However, 110v equipment is often used in factories and on construction sites. This is because if there is an accident (for example, an electric cable is cut) then there is less risk of injury.

It used to be the case that the class of electrical equipment determined how frequently it was PAT tested.

However, the introduction of the 5th edition In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment code of practice specified you should carry out a risk assessment to determine how frequently electrical equipment is PAT tested instead.

This makes PAT testing easier to understand and acknowledges that not all pieces of electrical equipment are the same.

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
    • Insulation resistance checks. This check makes sure that the insulation around the live parts of the appliance have a high level of resistance.It is carried out after the Earth continuity check
    • Lead polarity checks. This check makes sure that the lead of your appliance is wired correctly
    • 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 electrical 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 electrical equipment and where it is located, but this is just a recommendation.

Can PAT testing damage electrical 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 PAT testing?

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

  • Pass – If the electrical 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 electrical 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?

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.

Electrical 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 electrical equipment there and then to see if it passes.

If individual pieces of electrical equipment fail inspection, we will let you know. You will then be able to get the electrical 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 shows what electrical equipment is tested and whether it passed or failed inspection.

How long is a PAT test certificate valid for?

Your certificate will include a ‘valid until’ date. This is usually 12 months but it will depend on what electrical equipment was tested and where it is used. For example, electrical equipment on a construction site will need testing more frequently than electrical equipment in an office.

Find out more about PAT testing certificates.

Do I need to keep records of PAT testing or label any electrical equipment that has been PAT tested?

There isn’t a legal requirement to keep records of PAT testing or label electrical equipment. However, it can be very useful for the following reasons

  • It shows that you have carried out testing and have evidence in case a third party (for example an insurer or external auditor) asks for evidence of your electrical compliance
  • Labelling gives staff, contractors and customers peace of mind that your electrical equipment has been tested and is safe to use
  • It can help you keep track of how much electrical equipment you have on the premises – think of your records as an asset list!

How much does PAT testing cost?

The honest answer… it depends!

PAT tests are priced per unit. For example, if you have a computer with two monitors, it would be counted as six separate units to be tested. The computer, the two monitors, and the three power leads.

When you contact your PAT tester, let them know roughly how many units need to be tested. If you’re not sure, forward them a copy of your last PAT testing report or asset list if you have one.

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

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

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.

Visit our guide to 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 electrical 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 electrical 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 electrical 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 electrical equipment relies on obsolete and hard-to-find parts, meaning it can be costly to keep it functional.

We’re the UKs Number 1  trusted voice of experience in the industry, who are regularly consulted to give our expert opinions with industry governing bodies.

Through our national network of fully certified engineers, Hawkesworth provide a range of technical compliance and testing services to ensure you’re not at risk – we’ve got you covered!

From your Electrical Installation and Portable Appliances with EICRPAT and Thermographic surveys to Fire Safety with Fire Risk Assessments, Fire Alarm Testing and Emergency Lighting.

Get in touch and see how we can help you