Portable Appliance Testing

Portable Appliance Testing from McKeown PAT Testing & Fire Extinguishers

By: McKeown PAT Testing & Fire Extinguishers  03/08/2011
Keywords: Testing, portable appliance testing, Pat Testing


What is PAT Testing?

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is an important part of a company's or individual's responsibility to health and safety. This is done using a series of specialised testing procedures on your portable appliances.


Is Portable Appliance Testing a legal requirement?

It is a statutory requirement and many insurance companies require the insured to comply with all current regulations. This includes the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which state that "As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger" (Regulation 4(2)). "Electrical equipment includes anything used, intended to be used or installed for use, to generate, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy." (Regulation 2(1)).

The responsibility on the employer to ensure work equipment is safe is also covered by The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. This states that "Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided." (Regulation 4(1)). This includes all work equipment (fixed, portable or transportable) connected to a source of electrical energy."

Failure to comply with Electrical Regulations can lead to a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and/or up to six months imprisonment. For breaches under the general duties of the Health Safety at Work Act 1974, penalties of up to £20,000 were introduced in 1992 and offences heard on indictment in the Crown Court attract unlimited financial penalties and up to two years imprisonment.


What does a PAT test consist of?

We start with a visual inspection checking for:

·         Damaged flexes

·         Damaged plugs and equipment (overheating, burn marks, discolouration)

·         Correctly wired plugs

·         Correctly rated fuse

Then a series of tests (depending on the class of equipment), they may include:

·         Earth continuity testing

·         Insulation resistance

·         Polarity test

·         Earth leakage test


What types of appliances need testing?

Basically, any type of equipment, which is powered by electrical energy.

The IET Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment states that this Code of Practice covers:

Portable Appliances:
An appliance of less than 18 kg in mass that is intended to be moved while in operation or an appliance which can easily be moved from one place to another, e.g. toaster, food mixer, vacuum cleaner, fan heater.

Movable Equipment (sometimes called Transportable):
This is equipment, which is either: 18 kg or less in mass and not fixed, e.g. electric fire, or equipment with wheels, castors or other means to facilitate movement by the operator as required to perform its intended use, e.g. air conditioning unit.

Hand-held Appliances:
This is portable equipment intended to be held in the hand during normal use, e.g. hair dryer, drill, soldering iron

Stationary Equipment or Appliances:
This equipment has a mass exceeding 18 kg and is not provided with a carrying handle, e.g. refrigerator, washing machine.

Fixed Equipment/Appliances:
This is equipment of an appliance, which is fastened to a support or otherwise secured in a specified location, e.g. bathroom heater, towel rail.

Appliances/Equipment for Building in:
This equipment is intended to be installed in a prepared recess such as a cupboard or similar. In general, equipment for building in does not have an enclosure on all sides because on one or more of the sides, additional protection against electric shock is provided by the surroundings e.g. a built-in electric cooker.

Information Technology Equipment (Business Equipment):
Information technology equipment includes electrical business equipment such as computer and mains powered telecommunications equipment, and other equipment for general business use, such as mail processing machines, electric plotters, trimmers, VDUs, data terminal equipment, typewriters, telephones, printers, photo-copiers, power packs.

Extension Leads:
The use of extension leads should be avoided where possible. If used, they should be tested as portable appliances. It is recommended that 3-core leads (including a protective earthing conductor) be used.

A standard 13 A 3-pin extension socket-outlet with a 2-core cable should never be used even if the appliance to be used in Class II, as it would not provide protection against electrical shock if used at any time with an item of Class I equipment.

The length of an extension lead for general use should not exceed the following:
- Core Area Maximum Length
- 1.25mm2 12 metres
- 1.5mm2 15 metres
- 2.5mm2 25 metres*
- 2.5mm2 cables are too large for standard 13 A plugs, but they may be used with BS EN 60309 industrial plugs.

These maximum lengths are not applicable to the flex of an appliance, for guidance refer to paragraph 15.13 (IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment).

If extension lead lengths do exceed the above, they shall be protected by a 30 mA RCD manufactured to BS 7071.


How often do my appliances need to be PAT tested?

Frequency of testing depends on the type of equipment and the environment in which it is used. The frequencies we recommend are based on the guidelines by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) and our own experience.


Why do you say PAT testing and not PA Testing?

Portable Appliance Testing is abbreviated to 'PAT.' The phrase ‘PAT testing’ is in fact a tautology in the same way that some people say 'LCD Display'. However, the phrase is commonly used in the industry even though most people realise it is incorrect. Some people insist on calling the process PA Testing which causes confusion. The correct term for the whole process is actually 'In-service Inspection & Testing of Electrical Equipment'.

Dangerous Electrical Items

Electricity kills and injures people. Around 1000 electrical accidents at work are reported to HSE each year and about 30 people die from their injuries. Many injuries at work are a result of:

·         Poorly maintained electrical equipment

·         Inappropriate electrical equipment used in unsuitable environments

·         Fires started by poorly maintained electrical equipment

·         Damaged electrical equipment still in use

McKeown PAT Testing’s professional and comprehensive approach to electrical inspection and testing could help your company minimise the risk of injury and death.

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