Portable Appliance Testing

Changes to the guidance

Posted on: 30/03/2016   By: Lee Rance

What is portable appliance testing?

Portable appliance testing or PAT testing is routinely carried out on electrical appliances to ensure they are safe. The main reasons for this are to protect people from electric shock and to prevent the risk of fire.


The term ‘Portable Appliance Testing’ can be misleading because not everything that requires testing is portable. The types of electrical equipment that require testing are:

  • Portable appliances – equipment that can be easily moved from one place to another, e.g. kettle, toaster.
  • Movable appliances – equipment with wheels or castors to facilitate movement by the operator, e.g. air conditioning unit.
  • Hand-held appliances – equipment intended to be held when used, e.g. angle grinder, iron, hair dryer.
  • Stationary appliances – equipment heavier than 18 kg and is not provided with a carrying handle, e.g. fridge, vending machine.
  • Fixed appliances – equipment that is fastened to a support or secured in place usually connected via a fused connection unit, e.g. water boiler, hand dryer, electric towel rail.

Most companies these days have portable appliance testing carried out on an annual basis. Although it is not a legal requirement to carry out portable appliance testing, regulation 4(2) of The Electricity at Work Regulations states:

As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.

Also The UK Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) states at Regulation 4(1):

Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adopted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided.

This means that employers (and the self-employed) must ensure that all electrical work equipment is safe, suitable for the purpose and properly maintained in good order and the best way to do this is to have all the electrical equipment inspected and tested on a regular basis.

However most insurance companies now stipulate that companies have PAT testing carried out as a necessary condition of insurance.

The frequency of inspection and tests can vary greatly depending on the type of equipment and the environment it is used in. In the past the guidance stated that all items should be checked on an annual basis but now the 4th Edition of the Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment recommends that risk based assessments are carried out to determine the frequency of inspections. For example, electric tools used on a construction site are much more likely to become damaged compared to IT equipment used in an office. Therefore would need checking more frequently.

PAT testing is broken down into three activities:

  • User checks
  • Formal visual inspections (without tests)
  • Combined inspections and tests

The most important of these activities is the user checks. Most faults are picked up during visual checks so the user of the equipment is much more likely to spot damage to the appliance because they are using it on a regular basis whereas the PAT tester would only be inspecting the item once a year (depending on equipment and environment).

Fixed items should also now be included in any PAT testing schedule. These items were previously being missed because they didn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the fixed wiring checks or the PAT tester. Fixed items, where they are connected to a fused connection unit, first need to be safely isolated before any inspection or testing can be carried out. This requires the inspector to be competent in safe isolation procedures.

Until next time

Lee Rance