PAT Testing Regulations. What Does This Mean to You and Your Business?
PAT Testing, or to be more precise, Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) falls within the employer’s duty of care under The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
This states that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury must be maintained in a safe condition.
The Regulations do not specify what needs to be done or how frequently. Neither is the inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement as such.
However, the flip side to this is that if an employee is injured or killed through electrocution of a non-maintained, or badly maintained appliance, then the business owner or responsible person will have a very steep uphill battle to prove they have no liability in this incident.
What Does Portable Appliance Testing Consist Of?
There are three parts to the testing:
1). Visual inspection
2). Earth continuity test
3). Insulation test
The testing should be carried out regularly (usually every 12 months) and should be carried out by trained, authorised personnel.
It’s actually a general myth that the law says it has to be carried every 12 months, but it is down to the employer to make an assessment of the risk factor and provide evidence of regular planned intervals of inspection.
In a low risk environment such as a small office it is quite possible that a formal inspection and test could be every two to five years with visual inspections carried out more frequently, but that should be decided by the business owners or managers based on the acceptable level of risk in the environment.
The visual inspection looks at damage to the cable, the plug, the body of the appliance, loose components and also where the appliance is being used (its environment).
The visual inspection also examines the plug for correct and safe wiring, correct fuses and loose connections.
The earth continuity test checks for correct earthing and continuity between the plug and critical parts of the device.
The insulation test checks the cable for potential breakdown in its insulation and unseen faults.
Commonly, evidence of testing being carried out can be observed by the attachment of a coloured sticker detailing the date of inspection and who carried out the test.
What is the Insurance Company View?
Do insurance companies insist on Portable Appliance Testing?
Many Businesses are unaware of the Insurance implications of not having an up-to-date Portable Appliance Testing program in place.
As over 25% of fires start from portable appliances, Insurance companies have a big interest in mitigating that risk and insist that a program of regular testing is in place.
Failure to carry out the necessary tests may result in an insurance company refusing to pay out in the case of an accident or a fire caused by a faulty or badly maintained electrical appliance.
Is Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) Compulsory?
This is what the HSE says.
“No. The law simply requires an employer to ensure that their electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger. It does not say how this should be done or how often. Employers should take a risk-based approach, considering the type of equipment and what it is being used for. If it is used regularly and moved a lot e.g. a floor cleaner or a kettle, testing (along with visual checks) can be an important part of an effective maintenance regime giving employers confidence that they are doing what is necessary to help them meet their legal duties. HSE provides guidance on how to maintain equipment including the use of PAT.”
However, treat this as a poison chalice. Although that is what the HSE say, it would be very unwise not to have a regime of inspection in place.
In the unfortunate scenario of having a fire or an accident at work caused by an unsafe appliance, the HSE and potentially the courts will insist on an employer proving they took reasonable care by having a regime of inspection in place. If not then the result is negligence, with all the implications that come with it.
Following on from that is the insurance issue…
Is it really worth it for what is a relatively small cost for peace of mind and workplace safety?