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What Is PAT Testing?

PAT testing can be something as simple as checking for frayed wires.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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Portable appliance testing, also called PAT or PAT testing, is an electrical inspection of equipment to confirm it is in safe working order. The law in some countries including Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand requires employers to maintain safe working conditions, including functional portable appliances. They may need to perform periodic PAT testing to check their equipment, although this testing is not legally required unless it appears necessary. This contradicts the popular myth that it is required on a set time schedule.

In-service inspection and testing of electrical equipment, as the law describes it, mandates that employers regularly check portable appliances used in the workplace. This can be as simple as a quick visual inspection to look for frayed wires and other signs of problems. If an appliance is malfunctioning or looks like it might be dangerous, the employer can arrange for PAT testing. Electricians can examine the equipment, run some tests, and determine if it needs maintenance, repair, or replacement.

After an inspection, an electrician may tag the appliance to provide information about when it was last tested and what the outcome of the testing was. PAT testing can also result in the generation of a log which can be filed with maintenance and purchase records. In the event of a workplace safety problem, auditors can review this information. Employers may use routine testing to create a paper trail to illustrate their attentiveness, but they can also simply note when appliances were last visually inspected for problems.

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Appliances sent out for repair or retrofitting can also be subject to PAT testing. The electrician who performs the work may test and certify the equipment as safe for use. It is also possible to request a third party inspection. Electricians may guarantee their work for a set period of time, offering free repairs or compensation if a problem develops, and it was clearly their fault.

Employers uncertain about whether they need PAT testing can consult a government safety representative. Information about the relevant sections of the law can be made available, and the representative can discuss whether testing would be a good idea, given the equipment and the working conditions. Desk lamps, for example, probably do not need a detailed inspection from an electrician every six months. Light equipment used on job sites, however, might benefit from a yearly check for common electrical problems because it can be prone to shorts and other issues due to heavy use.

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