Testing & Inspection of Portable Electrical Equipment - PAT
The routine inspection and testing of portable, and fixed, electrical appliances (or
equipment), especially those used in severe environments such as building sites, is an important safety
‘Portable’: Any item of electrical current using equipment that is
plugged into a socket outlet.
‘Fixed’: Any item of electrical current using equipment that is
"hard-wired" into a fused connection unit or isolation device.
The HSE strategy suggests user checks, backed up by formal visual inspection and combined
inspection and test.
The user of the equipment should be encouraged to check the condition of the equipment
prior to use. It is relatively easy for people to spot and report signs of damage, overheating and
Formal Visual inspection
The most important monitoring of portable appliances is through a regular formal visual
inspection. This should be carried out by someone who has been properly trained to perform a more thorough check of
the equipment. This may include examining plugs, fuses, flexible cables, and cable clamping arrangements
Combined Inspection and Testing
Faults may arise in electrical equipment that may not be readily apparent. For example,
internal damage may result from misuse or internal electrical connections may deteriorate over time. One way to
identify such defects is through an electrical testing which is commonly done by using a portable appliance test
instrument (a "PAT" tester). In low risk environments, a properly trained, competent member of staff can perform
these tests using a suitable "off the shelf" PAT tester on appliances disconnected from the electrical supply. In
higher risk areas a more highly trained specialist may be needed to disconnect the equipment from the electrical
supply, perform complex tests and to interpret the results.
In-service testing requires the following:
- An earth continuity test on class 1 equipment
- Insulation resistance testing, if applicable, or protective conductor current/touch current test or
substitute/alterantive leakage test
- Functional checks
There are no set statutory periods for formal visual inspection and test. The maintenance
regime should be appropriate to the environment and duty for which the equipment is used. Electrical testing in a
low-risk area e.g. in an office, would be less frequent than in, say, a harsh industrial environment. Guidance on
inspection intervals can be found in the IEE and HSE documents identified below.
Although there is no mandatory requirement to produce and keep records on the condition of
electrical equipment the HSE ‘Memorandum of guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations’ (HS(R)25) advises that
records of maintenance, including test results, will enable the condition of equipment and the effectiveness of
maintenance policies to be monitored.
The IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical
Equipment recommends that a log be kept of the condition of equipment, together with records that may be held on
paper or in ‘electronic’ form.
In the event of a prosecution arising from an injury relating to a portable appliance, it
would assist the employer’s case if they can produce up to date, accurate records to indicate that they had taken
reasonable actions to comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.