Electrical Advice

When do I need a PAT test?

This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about PAT testing, from understanding the basics and legal requirements to knowing “when do I need a PAT test?” and even how to perform one.

When Do I Need a PAT Test? A Comprehensive Guide to Portable Appliance Testing

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) is an essential aspect of workplace safety, ensuring that electrical appliances are in good working order and reducing the risk of accidents. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about PAT testing, from understanding the basics and legal requirements to knowing “when do I need a PAT test?” and even how to perform one.

Short Summary

  • PAT Testing is a comprehensive process of safety inspections to detect electrical defects and comply with legal regulations.
  • Visual checks, tests, and record-keeping are needed for new equipment in high/low-risk environments.
  • Competent staff or qualified electricians must be used to avoid common mistakes and ensure the accuracy of testing results.

Understanding PAT Testing

Qualified electricians can conduct PAT testing

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) is a safety inspection of portable appliances and other electrical appliances in the workplace, involving visual checks and in-depth tests using specialised equipment. A PAT test includes a visual inspection of the appliance and the use of specialist equipment to verify that the internal components are functioning properly. The purpose of PAT testing, also known as formal portable appliance inspection, is to ensure user safety and identify any potential electrical malfunctions that may otherwise go undetected. To perform these inspections, individuals can enrol on a PAT testing course. Once the inspection is completed, the appliances are considered “PAT tested.”

The PAT testing process may include earth continuity tests, insulation resistance tests, protective conductor/touch or alternative/substitute leakage tests, functional checks, wiring polarity checks, and dielectric strength tests.

Legal Requirements and Regulations

While not specifically required by law, PAT testing is highly recommended to comply with multiple regulations and ensure the safety of electrical appliances in the workplace. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 all suggest that Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing) must be carried out.

The legal requirement for workplace electrical equipment is that it must be suitable for its intended purpose and safe to use, which can be verified through a PAT test. Failing to adhere to legal requirements regarding electrical appliance safety can result in up to two years of imprisonment and an unlimited financial penalty, as outlined by the Health and Safety Executive.

Identifying When a PAT Test is Necessary

The need for a PAT test depends on factors such as the type of equipment, its usage environment, and whether it’s new or used. In the following subsections, we will discuss the details of when a PAT test is necessary based on new equipment, high-risk environments, and low-risk environments.

New Equipment and Visual Checks

Newly acquired equipment does not necessitate a formal PAT test, but a visual inspection is recommended. A visual check for new equipment is essential to ensure that it has not been damaged during transportation or storage, which could potentially pose safety risks.

High-Risk Environments

High-risk environments, such as construction sites, may require more frequent PAT testing. It's also essential to provide concise documentation of inspection results.

It is crucial to ensure the safety of workers in high-risk environments, so regular PAT testing and visual inspections are essential to prevent electrical accidents.

Low-Risk Environments

Offices are classed as low-risk environments for PAT testing purposes

Low-risk environments, such as small offices or residential homes, are considered to be less demanding in terms of PAT testing requirements. In these cases, a maintenance employee can conduct a PAT test through a basic visual inspection of the equipment. However, it is important to take a risk-based approach and consider the type of equipment and its purpose.

Performing a PAT Test: Who Can Do It?

Qualified staff or commercial electrical contractors can competently carry out PAT testing, provided they possess the requisite knowledge and experience. No specific qualification is required for PAT testing; however, it is expected that the individual has undergone some form of training to gain the necessary understanding of how to carry out the test effectively.

A ‘competent individual’ is someone who has the requisite background and experience to conduct a PAT test safely and is proficient in using the appropriate PAT testing equipment to verify that an appliance is safe to use. It is essential that the tester is aware of the necessary precautions to ensure safety during the testing process.

Types of Electrical Appliances and Their Testing Needs

Electrical appliances are categorised into different classes, which determine the type of testing required. Class 1 appliances feature basic insulation and are dependent on an earth for protection, whereas Class 2 appliances boast additional insulation and do not rely on an earth for protection. Establishing the construction class of an item of equipment is essential so that pertinent tests can be conducted.

It is recommended to consult the symbols present on electrical items at the time of purchase, in order to identify their electrical class. This should help you determine the level of PAT test it requires. Electric drills, PCs, monitors, printers and kettles are examples of equipment that should be tested. Additionally, larger electrical installations, such as photocopiers and vending machines, should also be tested.

Establishing a PAT Testing Schedule

Establishing a PAT testing schedule depends on factors such as the risk level of the working environment, the electrical class of the appliance, and the category of the electrical appliance. It is recommended to conduct a visual inspection every 6-12 months and to maintain records of the testing.

The frequency of PAT testing should be based on the type of equipment and the environment in which it is utilised. By considering these factors and following the recommended testing schedule, businesses can ensure the safety of their electrical equipment and minimise the risk of accidents.

Record Keeping and Management Tools

Keeping records of tested equipment and their results can be useful for managing and maintaining electrical safety in the workplace. Although record-keeping is not legally mandated for PAT testing, it can be a beneficial management tool for businesses.

Common PAT Testing Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid common PAT testing mistakes, such as not performing a visual inspection, not following the prescribed testing sequence, failing insulation resistance tests, earth continuity tests, touch current tests, and load tests, using an incorrect fuse, having a cracked or damaged plug, having non-insulated live and neutral pins, and not isolating faulty equipment.

Visual inspections are essential as they enable the identification of any potential problems with fixed appliances prior to testing. Performing tests in the required order ensures that all tests are conducted accurately, thereby enabling any potential issues to be identified and addressed.

By avoiding these common mistakes, businesses can improve the accuracy and reliability of their PAT testing.

Investing in PAT Testing Equipment

Investing in PAT testing equipment is essential for businesses that choose to conduct their own testing, ensuring accurate and reliable results. The PAT testing equipment required will depend on the type of appliances being tested. Generally, this includes a PAT tester, a socket tester, and labels to mark the appliances as tested.

When selecting specialist PAT testing equipment, factors such as the type of equipment to be tested, the frequency of testing, and the budget available should be taken into account. Additionally, the features of the equipment should be considered, including the accuracy of results, ease of use, and safety features.

By investing in the right equipment, businesses can confidently conduct their own PAT testing and maintain a safe working environment.


In conclusion, PAT testing plays a crucial role in maintaining electrical safety in the workplace. By understanding the basics of PAT testing, complying with legal requirements and regulations, identifying when a test is necessary, and investing in the right equipment, businesses can ensure the safety of their electrical appliances and minimise the risk of accidents.

If you're seeking a local electrician in London or in the East London and Essex area, get in touch with Electrician of London today. We are the acknowledged experts and offer comprehensive PAT testing for businesses of any size.

Stay informed, stay safe, and make PAT testing an essential part of your workplace safety plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should a PAT test be done?

For optimal safety, it is recommended that PAT testing frequency is around once a year for all applicable equipment. This includes both stationary and portable devices, as well as handheld and other frequently used equipment, to ensure that they meet the necessary safety standards. High-risk environments, such as construction sites, may need to conduct PAT tests more frequently.

PAT testing is an important part of any safety programme, as it helps identify any potential hazards and ensure that all equipment is functioning properly.

What requires a PAT test?

PAT testing is necessary to ensure the safety of any electrical appliance that has a plug connected to a wall socket or generator. Items such as electric drills, PCs, monitors, printers, kettles, and large equipment like photocopiers and vending machines must all be PAT tested for proper safety standards.

Is it a legal requirement to do PAT testing?

It is not a legal requirement to undertake PAT testing, however, it is considered good practice and recommended. Having PAT testing in place can help protect the safety of employees and other persons from potential risks of electric shock or fire from defective electrical equipment.

What doesn't need to be PAT tested?

In summary, electrical installations that are wired into the wall do not require PAT testing, as long as they are installed and functioning properly.

Any equipment that uses a cable or plug and socket and runs off mains electricity needs to be regularly tested. Cordless and battery-operated equipment and associated chargers do not need to be tested.

Who can perform PAT testing?

PAT testing can be conducted by trained and certified staff or qualified electricians, in order to ensure safety regulations are met.

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