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What is PAT testing?
Portable Appliance Testing or commonly known as PAT or PAT Inspection or PAT testing, is a routine inspection carried out on “movable” electrical appliances to check that they are safe to use. Its purpose is to prevent future electrical accidents.
What is a Portable Appliance?
Portable Electrical Appliance refers to electrical equipment that can be moved from one place to another. Some examples are a kettle, coffee machine, microwave, hoover, table lamp, toaster, computer, etc. Portable appliances usually have a lead with a plug attached. Appliances that are permanently fixed to the building structure are not included in the PAT Testing because they are not portable. In other words, because it cannot be carried manually to another location with relative ease, it is not considered a portable appliance. A few examples are electrical heating or cooling units, refrigerators, and built-in-lighting.
Currently, there is no law that makes Portable Appliance Testing a requirement for homeowners. However, for landlords and business owners, the law does state that all the electrical equipment within a rental or business property must be safe to use. The current law requires that landlords and employers maintain all portable appliances safe for the purposes intended, that the appliances are kept protected through regular maintenance as well as periodic testing. Specifically, insurance companies will want to see that measures have been taken to comply with the various Health and Safety acts listed below:
- Health & Safety at Work Act 1974;
- The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999;
- The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989;
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992;
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Who can perform a Portable Appliance Testing?
Portable Appliance Testing can be performed by anyone with a PAT testing machine, however, it is advised that the work is conducted by a qualified electrical engineer. There are currently no clearly defined “official” qualifications to be upheld when carrying out a PAT testing, but most insurance companies would expect to see evidence of professional training and experience.
How often should Portable Appliance Testing be carried out?
The frequency of testing is entirely dependent on the likelihood of the appliance becoming faulty. Often this is determined by the type of equipment and the environment of which is being used. See some determining factors below:
- How dangerous the environment that the appliance is kept in
- How likely the item is to be reported faulty by its users
- The safety class of the equipment
- The type of appliance - i.e. handheld appliances are more likely to go wrong than fixed appliances
With a brand new electrical equipment, it does not need PAT Inspection for the first two years - unless of course, the appliance flags a concern. The only exception to this would be portable electrical equipment used on construction sites.
The categories of an electrical appliance that can require PAT testing:
- Fixed appliances
- IT appliances
- Portable appliances
- Moveable appliances
- Stationary appliances
- Cable and chargers
- Hand-held appliances
The electrical appliances can be further categorized into Class 1, 2 or 3 appliances:
- Class I – Earthed Appliance (This classification of appliances is the most dangerous because it only has basic insulation so it relies on an earth for protection.)
- Class II – Double Insulated Appliance (This classification of appliances has more insulation which makes it safer as it does not rely on an earth.)
- Class III – Separated Extra Low Voltage (This classification is the safest appliance because it is low voltage; nevertheless, its chargers and leads should still be PAT tested.)
What to expect from a PAT Testing inspection?
Portable Appliance Testing entails a visual inspection and a more in-depth check using specialized PAT testing equipment to check earthing (grounding) continuity, lead polarity, and insulation resistance. Most electrical safety defects can be found by visual inspection but some types of defects can only be found by testing. However, it is important to understand that visual inspection is also an essential part of the process because some types of electrical safety defect cannot be found by testing alone.
At the end of a PAT testing, every appliance will be marked “Passed” or “Failed”. Although labeling is not a legal requirement it is advised they are labeled accordingly for effective management of the maintenance process.