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Portable Appliance Testing (PAT), or more correctly called, In-service inspection and testing of Electrical Equipment, is a method of ensuring compliance with the Electricity at Work regulations.

The current Code of Practice (COP) is the 5th edition and that is what I work to.

Is a PA test a legal requirement?

Short answer –generally NO. A PA test involves both a visual inspection and a series of tests on electrical appliances to ensure they are safe for continued use. The idea is similar to that of a car’s MOT. 

It’s normally a workplace thing and came about from The Electricity at Work Regulations which requires equipment to be maintained in a safe condition. There are three other main sets of regulations that cover the inspection and testing of in-service electrical equipment and these are the Health and Safety at Work act, The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

As already mentioned PA testing is not a legal requirement nor are the frequency of any inspections specified in the regulations. However, to show due diligence and show compliance with the regulations, many businesses have PAT inspections every 12-24 months for office equipment and more frequent tests on easily damaged equipment. This could be particularly important for landlords or those with holiday lets.

Does my holiday let/Airbnb/rental/B&B/hotel appliances need testing?

There is no legal requirement for PAT inspections in England and Wales, but you are obliged to ensure that your accommodation is safe – not just electrically. Part of the legal requirements for a short-term let licence in Scotland includes a Portable Appliance Testing Report. By implication, a yearly renewal of the licence requires a yearly PAT inspection report to be included in the application.

What needs to be tested?

It is a misconception that only portable appliances need to be tested and one reason why it is better to refer to in-service inspection and testing of electrical equipment. 

The 5th edition COP clarifies the type of equipment that should be tested and this includes:

mobile equipment (eg desk lights, toasters), 

stationary equipment (eg workshop equipment), 

fixed equipment (eg lighting, hand-dryers, boilers), 

hand-held equipment (eg hairdryers, power tools), built-in appliances (eg dishwashers, refrigerators), 

IT equipment (eg laptop power supplies, computers), 

extension leads (eg multiway adapters, RCD extension leads), 

electric heating equipment (eg storage heaters, immersion heaters) 

and electrical installations in office furniture and similar.

Put simply it can include any electrical device that is attached to the fixed wiring of the property. It is not necessarily appropriate or feasible to test all these things but as the duty holder (that’s you!) it is up to you to decide how far the testing should go.

Is a PAT inspection a guarantee of electrical safety in the future?

No. Like an MOT on a car, passing the PAT test just means that item passed a certain set of tests on a specific date and is therefore no guarantee that a fault won’t occur in the future.

What happens during testing?

An inspection is generally non-invasive apart from taking off a plug top to check the wiring and a fuse. The purpose of the test is to show a device is safe for normal operation. A thorough visual inspection is carried out first to ensure there are no cracks, holes or other issues that render the device unsafe. If it passes the visual checks then specialised equipment is used to carry out a number of electrical tests depending on the type and class of the item.

Items that are connected to the mains directly eg cooker, storage heaters can be tested but require more work and will require circuits to be isolated at the main consumer unit. This may not be possible for a variety of reasons.

How many items need testing?

Anything that uses over 50V should be tested – you can choose to only have certain items inspected if you want to keep costs down but that is at your own risk. Please bear in mind that multiple tests may apply to a ‘single’ item. For example, a desk light with a non-removable cord would a single item, whereas an electric kettle is usually made of two parts, the kettle itself and the base or power cord that plugs into the mains. Both parts directly connect to 230V, both come into contact with the user, so both parts are tested as separate items, and therefore chargeable as two items.

Why me?

PAT inspections can be performed by a competent person who has the skills to test an item of equipment and, based on the results, to state that the equipment is safe or otherwise for continued use and to complete and sign any reports. 

I have a Level 3 City & Guilds qualification in Inspection and testing of electrical equipment and a Level 3 City & Guilds qualification in the Management Requirements for the Maintenance of electrical equipment.

I am also appropriately insured.