Questions to Ask your PAT Testing Company
If you’re an employer or business owner, then you’ll know that you have a legal responsibility to keep all employees and visitors safe in your buildings. Any commercial property is likely to contain a high amount of electrical appliances, so it’s important to ensure that these are safe for all staff and any external visitors.
Portable appliance testing (PAT testing) is one way to ensure that all your appliances are tested; keeping you in line with the legal requirements, and ensuring that all appliances are working safely and efficiently. If you’re new to business ownership or are not familiar with PAT testing then you may be wondering exactly what it is and why it’s necessary. You may also be wondering what sort of questions are the most relevant and useful to ask a PAT testing company, so if you want to know more, then see our guide below to what PAT testing is, and the sort of questions you may wish to ask.
What is PAT testing?
While the name sounds reasonably self explanatory, it doesn’t do much to explain what portable appliance testing actually is. A PAT test is a routine inspection of a building’s portable electrical appliances, to make sure they are safe to use and prevent accidents in the workplace. A PAT test includes a physical inspection of the appliance and any exposed cables, and more in depth testing using specialist PAT equipment; this tests for things including earth continuity, lead polarity and insulation resistance checks.
At the end of the test, each appliance is marked as either passed or failed, and there are many different types of appliances which can and should be tested, which we will discuss in more detail further on.
What happens during the test?
As mentioned above, a PAT test involves a physical inspection, and some more in depth tests which are done using specialist equipment. The physical test will include checking and testing for frayed wires, examining the casing of an appliance for any damage or cracks, and checking the interior and exterior of plugs for any damage, cracks or loose wires.
Further tests may not be suitable or safe for all appliances, but they are as follows.
Earth resistance and continuity tests
The resistance test shows the resistance offered by the earthing rods with the connection leads, which should be less than 1 ohm (the unit of electrical resistance). Testers will also carry out an earth continuity test, using an ohmmeter or PAT tester. The equipment measures the resistance of the protective earth circuit of an extension or appliance cord; this should also not exceed 1 ohm.
Insulation resistance test
Also measured in ohms, insulation resistance refers to the appliance’s resistance to current leakage through and over the surface of the insulation material surrounding a conductor. It’s vital to regularly test an appliances resistance for safety reasons, and the test uses a certain type and level of voltage (depending on the voltage of the appliance), to measure the resistance in ohms.
For each test, the required circuit is selected and the live conductors are disconnected. One of the test leads is then connected to the line conductor, and the other to the neutral conductor; the tester is then set to the required voltage and a value in ohms will be displayed. This is a rather simplified version of the test, but you can read more about it here.
A polarity test is designed to check that all single pole devices (such as fuses and switches) are connected in the phase conductor only. The test uses an instrument to measure readings between the phase conductor and the appliance being tested, so that if the circuit is broken and the reading changes, you can be sure that the device is correctly connected to the phase conductor.
What type of appliances do you test?
PAT testing actually covers seven different types of appliance, so the phrase ‘portable appliance’ can be a bit misleading! The seven types are as follows; fixed appliances (such as cookers, storage heaters or hand dryers), stationary appliances (such as fridges), IT appliances (PCs, laptops, printers, etc), moveable appliances (classed as electrical equipment under 18kg that can be moved easily), portable appliances (such as tools, kettles or toasters), cables and chargers, and handheld appliances (such as hairdryers or hair straighteners).
Electrical appliances are also categorised as either Class 1, 2 or 3, with Class 1 being the most dangerous and Class 3 the least dangerous. The type of class will depend on the degree of PAT testing needed, and how many tests need to be carried out.
How often should I have items tested?
There are no set rules stipulating how often appliances should be tested, but it is recommended that all employers arrange regular testing, for both the safety of their staff and to ensure preventative maintenance. As mentioned above, the type of appliance and whether it is Class 1, 2 or 3 will also determine how often it should be tested.
As a general rule, Class 1 equipment should be tested every 48 months in offices, shops and hotels, and every 12 months in schools. Industrial sites should have any portable or handheld equipment such as electrical tools tested every 6 months, and stationary or IT equipment should have a test every 12 months. Any electrical appliance for public use, such as a library computer or stationary appliances should be tested every 12 months, and any Class 1 equipment, every 6 months.
Is PAT testing a legal obligation?
PAT testing itself is not a legal requirement, however current UK legislation states that all businesses must keep their electrical appliances in a safe condition; for both the safety of their employees and members of the public.
PAT testing is usually the chosen method, as it is highly effective, and often considered the standard test for meeting any legal requirements.
Are there penalties if I don’t get items tested?
Yes; although there are no fixed requirements for the frequency of testing, employers do have a legal obligation to ensure their electrical appliances are safe. Failure to PAT test your appliances at regular intervals can result in a financial penalty, or even up to two years in prison depending on the severity of the situation.
Who is qualified to test the items?
Legislation states that whoever is carrying out the testing must be a ‘competent person’. This means that they need to possess adequate knowledge of electricity, have experience carrying out electrical work, know how to perform the visual inspections, understand any hazards or safety issues that may arise, and have the equipment and knowledge necessary to carry out a range of PAT tests.
In some cases, a business may have an internal member of staff who is qualified to perform these tests, but it’s usually better to hire a qualified electrician or PAT tester for peace of mind.
What happens if an item fails?
Most minor issues can be spotted during the visual testing stage (for example a cracked plug), and in most of these cases, any minor repairs can be carried out there and then by whoever is performing the test. If an item has a more serious issue, then it will be taken out of service for repair to eliminate any danger to your staff.
Why is PAT testing important?
PAT testing is about safety, first and foremost, which is why it’s a vital step towards ensuring all employees are kept safe and to prevent any potential electrical accidents in the workplace. Adhering to these safety standards is also a legal requirement, so PAT testing is essential if you want to avoid any potential fines! It’s also a highly effective preventative measure, and could save you money on costly repairs or having to replace equipment in the long run.
If you’re looking for professional PAT testing from highly qualified engineers, get in touch with Interlink Lighting & Electrical. All of our commercial electrical contractors and industrial electricians are fully qualified to carry out PAT tests, and we have 25 years of experience testing a wide range of appliances; from kettles to ovens, and everything in between. Keep your staff safe and business running smoothly by booking a PAT test today, simply give us a call to speak to a member of our team, or visit the website to find out more.