Is PAT testing a legal requirement?

This is a confusing one for many and something we’re asked a lot, let’s take a look.

Like several areas of health and safety, this topic is confusing because there are different ways to think about it. Asking whether portable appliance testing (PAT) is a legal requirement is only half the story. 

When most people think of PAT testing, they think about an engineer using a machine to inspect and test the safety of plugged items in the workplace – and when they ask if PAT testing is required they are asking whether this machine testing is a legal requirement. 

The answer to that question is no – kind of. 

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 says that all electrical equipment with the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. It does not specifically say what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently.   

So testing inspection and testing carried out by an engineer is not compulsory but is the most effective way of ensuring that your items are safe and maintained suitably.  

The frequency of inspection and testing depends upon the type of equipment, the environment it’s used and the task used for. For example, tools used every day on a construction site should be tested more regularly than a stereo in an office. For guidance on suggested frequencies of inspection and testing, click here.

It’s important to remember that inspection and testing is only half the story. The primary goal is to ensure the safety and proper maintenance of your electrical items. This includes regular visual inspections in between your machine tests and inspections intervals.  Most electrical safety defects can be found by visual examination so it is essential that visual examination is an essential part of the process.  

The person who is conducting your PAT testing needs to be competent to do so. You should nominate a member of staff who take responsibility for regular visual examinations and provide suitable training for them to do it effectively. This can come in the form of short videos and articles found from credible online sources. Your machine testing and inspection should be carried out by an engineer with suitable training and experience to do so. 

Although there is no legal requirement to record your testing and examinations we strongly recommend that you do so to evidence your compliance with the regulations. Not ensuring your equipment is safe and well maintained can result in large fines and in severe cases, custodial sentences. 

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