How is a PAT test done?

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) is a safety measure that has been put in place according to the 1989 Electricity at Work Regulations to ensure that tenants, workers, and the general public who use portable electrical appliances are safe from injury. It is a UK policy where electrical appliances undergo routine safety checks.

A PAT tester, or ohmmeter, is used by a qualified PAT testing specialist to conduct checks and tests on a number of appliances. The appliances should pass a variety of tests including insulation resistance, earth continuity, lead polarity, and several other checks for more advanced testers. Appliances that fail the tests must undergo the necessary repairs and recommended safety measures are advised. For ease of tracking in the future, the appliances that pass these tests are labeled with a safety sticker with a barcode. The testing process is relatively quick and easy. It does not take long to determine how safe the tested appliances are depending on how the tests have been passed or failed. For new appliances, a simple visual check should be done to ensure that there is no damage before they are used.

The tests done on an appliance are subject to risk assessment by a qualified technician and will depend on the type of appliance and its electrical class. For instance, the appliance will be powered up by performing a leakage current test on it, but it might not be safe to perform this test if the appliance cannot be safely secured on a stand. In this case, it may safer to perform an insulation resistance test.

A certified and competent external testing company should be contacted to carry out a PAT test for all types of organisations and residencies. They are able to observe any signs of wear and conduct the required testing on appliances. They will be able to provide guidance on safety measures that can ensure all appliances remain in good condition and are safe to use. They can also recommend the required course of action after carrying out PAT testing and repair any wear or damage in the appliance where required. PAT testing can also be done by a competent person in-house who must have undergone PAT test training and obtained an official qualification or has attended a health and safety course in an electrical health and safety company.

Although there are no set rules as to how frequently PAT testing should be carried out, it is recommended that all appliances undergo yearly routine checks. Some of the tests include checking plugs for any cracks or damage, testing for frayed wires, and visually examining the appliance that seems to be developing faults, including the casing around it.

Landlords, employers, schools, and the self-employed should take a risk-based approach in requesting PAT testing depending on the type of equipment in question and what it is being used for. The testing involves user checks, formal visual inspections, combined inspections and PAT. User checks help in early detection of signs of risk and immediately reporting to a specialist before they pose any danger.