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Electricity in the Work Place  - Do I need to do a PAT test?

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

It is a myth to say that your portable electrical equipment MUST be tested every year. The truth is, you must adopt a regime that is suitable for your needs and in many cases, testing between 1-4 years may be acceptable.

What Counts as Portable Electrical Equipment?

Portable Equipment means any item of electrical current using equipment that is plugged into a socket outlet such as:

Stationary equipment eg refrigerator or washing machine

IT equipment such as computers, printers, monitors etc

Moveable equipment 18kg or less in mass and not fixed eg electric fire or small welding set

Portable equipment 18kg or less intended to be moved while in operation eg toaster, food mixer, kettle

Hand-held equipment intended to be held in the hand during normal use eg hairdryer or power drill

Fixed Equipment means any items of electrical current using equipment that is “hard-wired” into a fused connection unit or isolation device.

All fixed equipment must be properly installed by technicians properly qualified to do the installation and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

The testing and maintenance regime generally varies between portable appliances and hard-wired installations

Maintenance and Inspection Regime:

There are three levels of check that an employer can institute:

User Checks – most common faults can be discovered by a simple visual check before the equipment is used.  All employees should be encouraged not to use equipment without first performing a visual check of the equipment, looking for signs of malfunction such as scorch marks, frayed wires, loose connections etc.

Formal Visual Inspection – the most effective form of testing is a formal visual check by someone trained to check fuses, cabling, plugs and the like.  This need not be a qualified electrician but it should be by someone competent and adequately trained and no one should undertake repairs unless they are properly qualified to do so.

Combined Inspection and Testing – also known as PAT testing.  Some faults may not be discovered by a visual check, such as internal wiring faults.  They can best be discovered by a portal appliance tester (PAT tester).  These tests do not have to be carried out by an electrician but should be carried out by someone who is suitably trained.

How Often Should the Equipment be Tested:

There is no reason why employees should not become used to performing a user check on a daily basis.

There are no statutory testing periods laid down by the Regulations for more formal visual checks or even for combined inspection and testing.  The maintenance regime should simply be appropriate to the environment.  Testing in a low risk environment may be less frequent than in a high risk environment.

The following table is provided by the HSE to assist in the establishing of a testing regime. Choose periods suitable to your own environment, including frequency of use and the level of wear and tear:


User Checks

Formal Visual Inspection

Combined inspection and testing (PAT Test)

Battery-operated (less than 20 volts) (excluding chargers)




Extra Low Voltage (less than 50volts AC) eg telephone equipment, low voltage desk lights




Information Technology – eg desktop computers, VDU screens


Yes, 2-4 Years

No, if double insulated, otherwise up to 5 years

Photocopiers, fax machines NOT hand-held.  Rarely moved


Yes, 2-4 Years

No, if double insulated, otherwise up to 5 years

Double-insulated equipment NOT hand held.  Moved occasionally .eg fans, table lamps, slide projectors


Yes, 2-4 Years


Double-insulated equipment HAND HELD eg some floor cleaners


Yes, 6 months – 1 year


Earthed equipment (Class 1): eg kettles, some floor cleaners


Yes, 6 months – 1 year

Yes, 1 –2 years

Cables (leads) and plugs connected to the above.

Extensions leads (mains voltage)


Yes, 6 months – 1 year depending on the type of equipment it is connected to

Yes, 1 – 5 years depending on the type of equipment it is connected to.

These are initial intervals.  Experience of operating the maintenance system over a period of time, together with information on faults found should be used to review the frequency of inspection and whether and how often equipment and associated leads and plugs should receive a combined inspection and test.

Keeping Records

There is no statutory requirement to keep records but in the event of a prosecution following an accident, records may prove to be extremely important in establishing that the employers have met their obligations under the Regulations to do what is reasonably practicable.  The HSE Code of Practice advices employers to keep a log of the electrical equipment and of the dates of tests.

Letting Agents and Landlords

It is strongly recommended that equipment be checked by a qualified electrician before the start of each let and at regular intervals thereafter.

Contact us to help you conduct a full risk assessment of your premises

Additional Reading:

Quick Guide - Electricity in the Workplace

Quick Guide - Testing and Maintaining Electrical Equipment

Quick Guide - Supplying Electrical Equipment in the Course of a Business

Quick Guide - Plugs and Sockets

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