PAT Testing Q&A
What is a portable appliance?
For the purpose of the legislation, a portable electrical appliance is taken to be an item of equipment which is not part of a fixed installation but is, or is intended to be, connected to fixed installation, or a generator, by means of a flexible cable and a plug and socket. Phew, heavy stuff eh? In layman's terms this means that any item with a plug is a portable appliance. This would include electric drills, kettles, PCs, printers, monitors, extension lead and even some large items such as vending machines and photocopiers.
Who does this apply to?
The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) placed a legal responsibility on empolyers, suppliers and hirers etc to take reasonable steps to ensure that no danger results from the use of electrical equipment. This means all portable appliances at your place of work have to be regularly tested to ensure they are safe.
How often do I have items tested?
There is no specific schedule set out. There are however guidelines to help, please see the Frequencies of Testing page. The frequency of testing depends on the type of equipment and the enviroment in which it is used. For example a high-risk item such as an electric drill should be tested more frequently than a low risk item such as a PC. Furthermore a drill that is used everyday in a high density manufacturing plant should be tested more frequently than a drill used only occasionally in an office environment. Essentially, it is the responsibility of the employer to assess the risk involved and implement it's own programme of testing. Most companies still opt for a blanket test of all equipment on an annual basis to ensure conformity.
Can anyone test items?
No, the legislation states that the person testing the item must be a competent person.
Is it done during normal office hours?
This type of testing can be executed either during or outside of normal working hours. If you are in charge of a department budget you should be aware that it is likely that evening work and weekend work would attract an uplift in costs.
Do we have to unplug the machines?
Yes. In order to electrically test the equipment it needs to be disconnected from the mains and plugged into a testing device. This is how the electrical readings are obtained and a PASS or FAIL status is defined.
What are the implications for our I.T. systems?
Since the early days of testing, the test equipment that PHR use has been adopted to ensure that no damage can be done to equipment during the test process.
What about our servers and critical systems?
In some environments where it is not possible to turn equipment on and off, such as computer suites and comms rooms, it may only be appropriate for a visual inspection to be carried out. If this is the case, then every effort must be made to carry out a combined inspection and test at the next available times. This would normally be during a scheduled shutdown for maintenance purpose.
How long does it take?
This will obviously depend on the number of appliances within your building and how easily accessible they are. A normal workstation with a computer, printer and extension lead would typically take between 10 and 15 minutes to test and reconnect. If you have any specific timescales to work to you should liase with us and gain clarification.
What is the labelling system?
All appliances that are tested should be given a unique form of identification. This will normally be in the form of an adhesive bar-code label indicating an asset number, the retest due date and initials of the PHR test engineer.
Do I have to keep records?
Once again, the guidelines are formally unclear as to the necessity of testing records. It should be viewed as best practice to adopt a register of all portable appliance testing. In this way you are able to demonstrate that you have safely maintained the equipment within your control.
What happens if an item fails?
Most failures are found during the initial visual check (i.e. a cracked plug or an incorrectly rated fuse). These minor repairs will be carried out during the course of the works however other failures may not be fixed quickly and PHR would take them out of service to eliminate danger to your staff.
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