Your Questions Answered
What is PAT (Portable Appliance) Testing?

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT Testing – we know, it says it twice!) is the term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use.

This provides you with peace of mind knowing that you have done everything in your power to meet your Health and Safety requirements for electrical equipment and keep the user safe from electrical shock.

Most electrical safety defects can be found by visual examination, but some types of defect can only be found by testing.

It is essential to understand that visual examination is an essential part of the process because some types of electrical safety defect can't be detected by testing alone.

PAT testing is an important part of your company’s health and safety and should be considered part of a solution to your safety concerns.

Why do we need to do this?

If you are employing anyone, provide services to customers or rent your property to tenants you have a legal responsibility to ensure Portable Appliances, as well as: Fixed Wire (where they are in a secure socket in the wall – like hand-driers), Emergency lighting and Thermal Imaging of servers and cables (potentially overheating due to poor air circulation or  lack of ventilation), are safe to operate and use.

There is legislation (Law) that covers reasons for getting this done:

The UK Health and Safety Executive along with insurance companies and businesses using your services will expect you to perform PAT testing to ensure that you are compliant with certain regulations including:

  • Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations of 1998
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1999

Not fulfilling your duty under these regulations can result in fines up to £5,000 and/or six months imprisonment.

Fines have been seen to go as high as £20,000 and offences heard in the Crown Court have carried sentences of more than 2 years imprisonment in additional to unlimited financial penalties.

In summary. it’s about keeping people safe.

How often should this be completed?

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition at all times.

However, the Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently (i.e. they don't make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement, nor do they make it a legal requirement to undertake this annually).

There are recommended testing periods, these can be found here.

Do I need to keep records of testing?

There is no legal requirement to keep records of these activities.

However, a record and labelling can be a useful management tool for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the maintenance schemes – and to demonstrate that a scheme exists within your Health and Safety management system.

In real terms, you are protecting you, your business, staff and service users from potential injury or death, and should the worst happen you can prove the test history of your property.

Do I need to test new equipment?

New equipment should be supplied in a safe condition and not require a formal portable appliance inspection or test. However, a simple visual check is recommended to verify the item is not damaged.

What is the law behind it all?

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 - Regardless of how many staff, contractors or visitors there are or who the employer is, it is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace to make sure the work environment remains safe for everyone.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 - All electrical equipment should be constructed and maintained in a way that prevents the endangerment of individuals, as much as is reasonably possible. These regulations define electrical systems as the entire arrangement of circuitry necessary to run electronic items. This includes the equipment as well as the source of the electricity.

Workplace (Health, Safety And Welfare) Regulations 1992 - This legislation makes it a requirement for businesses, including housing landlords, to perform regular maintenance on all equipment to keep it functioning properly. This is to prevent a dangerous environment that can result from faulty equipment.

The Provision and Use Of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 - This law states that it is the duty of an employer to ensure all equipment in the workplace is properly maintained and working efficiently.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 - The most recent regulations applying to PAT testing promote the responsibility of an employer to adequately assess the conditions of the workplace for the health and safety of all workers, contractors and visitors.

It is the employer’s duty to identify possible risks to anyone who happens to come in contact with the business.

These regulations each fall into one of the following three categories: safety at the workplace, equipment maintenance and electrical systems. When you think about these categories and PAT test your equipment, it  demonstrates your willingness to keep people safe.

Recommended electrical testing periods.
The table below provides guidance on the frequency of formal inspections of electrical installations as well as routine checks.
Type of installation Routine check Maximum period between inspections & testing
Buildings open to the public    
Cinemas 1 Year 1-3 Years
Church installations 1 Year 5 Years
Educational establishments 6 Months 5 Years
Leisure complexes (excluding swimming pools) 1 Year 3 Years
Places of public entertainment 1 Year 3 Years
Restaurants & hotels 1 Year 5 Years
Theatres 1 Year 3 Years
Public houses 1 Year 5 Years
Village halls/Community centres 1 Year 5 Years
Special and specific installations (for medical locations see above)    
Agricultural and horticultural 1 Year 3 Years
Swimming pools 4 Months 3 Years
Caravan parks
1 Year
6 Months
6 Months
1 Year
Highway power supplies As convenient 6-8 Years
Marinas 4 Months 1 Year
Fish farms 4 Months 1 Year
Emergency lightings Daily/Monthly 3 Years
Fire alarms Daily/Monthly 1 Year
Launderettes Monthly 1 Year
Petrol filling stations 1 Year 1 Year
Construction site installations 3 Months 3 Months
General Installation    
Domestic accommodation - general
Domestic accommodation - rented houses and flats
1 Year
Change of occupancy/10 years
change of occupancy/5 years
Residential accommodation (Houses of Multiple Occupation) - halls of residence, staff accommodation, etc. 1 Year Change of occupancy/5 years
Industrial 1 Year 3 Years
Commercial 1 Year Change of occupancy/5 years
Offices 1 Year 5 Years
Shops 1 Year 5 Years
Laboratories 1 Year 5 Years
Hospitals and Clinics    
Hospitals and medical clinics - general areas
Hospitals and medical clinics - medical locations
1 Year
6 Months
5 Years
1 Year
(Table extracted from BS7671 IET Wiring Regulations 18th Edition: 2018).
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