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Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is used for the examination of electrical equipment and appliances. Many defects in appliances can be found by doing a visual check but some defects can only be found when a test is done. It is essential that both a visual and appliance test is done as some electrical defects will not be picked up by doing just a test on its own.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 state that any electrical equipment that has a potential injury claim should be maintained in a safe condition. The regulation does not state how frequently, who should do the test or what needs to be done and currently there is no legal requirement to have this done on an annual basis.

Risk Assessment

Testing of equipment and the frequency depends on the type of equipment and the environment in which it is used. You will need to decide the level of maintenance needed according to the risk of the equipment you are using and how it is constructed. Things to consider include a risk assessment if the equipment is not used correctly, is not suitable for the job or the environment in which it is used. Lower risk items can be tested less frequently than those which are classed as being a higher risk. For example, an office worker using office equipment like a photocopier will not pose such a risk as someone using equipment in a workshop that will have larger electrical items in it. Some items may only need to be tested every five years, some annually and others more frequently.

What is Classed as a Portable Item?

A portable item is one which is classed as being movable from one place to another, which can be moved whilst it is held in the hand whilst it is still connected to the electrical supply. It is suggested that it should weigh less than 18kg and can be moved whilst in operation or an appliance that can be moved easily from one place to another, e.g. kettle, toaster, desk lamp and vacuum cleaner. This does not just apply to electrical items that have a three pin plug attached to them.

Checking the Equipment

PAT testing is required by employers, landlords and self-employed to ensure safety of portable appliances, companies like Pat-testers.ie supply the equipment. A list of portable items within the workplace should be written and then a risk assessment done on each piece of equipment. This will ensure that workers, visitors, and those who hire equipment are kept safe and will ensure the functioning of the equipment. When deciding whether a test needs to be done you will need to determine whether it is class I (earthed) or II (double insulated). Class I will always have an earthed connection and it is recommended to have a PAT done to eliminate the risk of electrical shock. Class II is also referred to as being double insulated and will not need to have a PAT done but should have a visual check done for safety reasons.

In offices, shops and hotels Class I equipment which should include stationary and IT equipment should be tested at least every four years. Equipment that can be moved should be tested at least every two years. Equipment that is classed as being hand held should have a PAT done at least once a year or more often if required.

In a school environment all Class I equipment should be PAT tested at least once a year and Class II equipment should be tested at least every four years.

Equipment that is used for public use like stationary and IT equipment should be tested once a year. Movable, Portable and handheld equipment that is classed as being Class I should be tested at least every six months and those which fall into Class II category should also be tested once a year.

In the construction industry all electrical equipment which is 110V and used on a construction site should be tested at least every three months.

Sites that are classed as being industrial which also includes commercial kitchens should have any portable or handheld equipment tested at least every six months. Items which include stationary, IT and moveable equipment should be tested every year.

Employees should also be encouraged to do visual checks which include any damage to leads or plugs. Any wires that are showing where the lead joins a plug, damage to the casing of a plug, any loose parts like screws loose. Signs that the appliance may be overheating such as burn marks and where the equipment is stored could also cause a risk.

To minimise risk all equipment should be checked according to the guidelines set out and all staff should be encouraged to do a user and visual check on equipment to ensure that it is safe to use. Training can be done to equip staff with some electrical knowledge so that the checks can be carried out competently.