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A guide to PAT testing (portable appliance testing) for small businesses

4-minute read

Small business guide to PAT testing
Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish

20 April 2023

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No matter what industry you’re working in, you more than likely rely on at least one portable appliance. These are any electrical appliance that can be unplugged and moved from one power supply to another. Discover more about PAT testing in our guide.

What is a portable appliance?

Although when we think of ‘portable’ we may think of something easily transportable like a hairdryer or a vacuum cleaner, a portable appliance can be any size electrical device that can be moved whilst in use or between uses. This means that even a large refrigerator can be considered a portable appliance and would require a PAT test.

Because we rely on these appliances so much, it’s important that their use and safety is regulated – which is where portable appliance testing, or PAT testing, comes in. Read on to learn more about the law surrounding this testing.

What is PAT testing?

PAT testing is a way to ensure that electrical equipment is safe to use. Any portable devices you use for your work are examined to make sure they won’t cause harm to you or others.

The PAT test can initially be completed by visually inspecting your devices to check for any defects. This can be a test where you use the appliance to see if any issues appear. If you’re unsure where to begin, you can find guidelines and checklists online to help you. But if you’re beginning with a visual inspection, you can start by looking out for the following PAT testing requirements:

  • damage to the lead
  • damage to the plug
  • visible wires – especially where the lead joins the plug
  • tape to attach the lead to the plug
  • loose or broken parts
  • visible evidence of overheating
  • how the cables are stored (trapped under furniture or other devices etc)
  • how the appliances are being stored (is it dusty or wet?)

However, your appliances can’t fully be PAT tested this way as some defects can’t be seen visually. A more detailed inspection should be completed for a better understanding of their health.

PAT testing requirements – what's the law?

Whilst it’s a requirement to make sure that any electrical equipment you use in your place of work is maintained and safe to use, there isn’t a legal definition for how you test or how often.

As a business owner, you’ll know which of your appliances get used the most. For example, a power tool used daily will have significantly more wear and tear than an electric fan you use only in the summer months. Prioritise PAT testing the appliances you use the most frequently, and which create the most risk, and go from there.

So while it isn’t a legal requirement to PAT test your appliances, you’re responsible for their safety and upkeep. Keeping an accurate record of the maintenance of your devices can come in useful when completing health and safety assessments. Check out the HSE’s guidelines for PAT testing here.

Who can test my portable appliances?

Anyone who’s considered ‘competent’ can test your appliances. This means that as long as the person testing has a good knowledge of electronics, their opinion on the safety of your devices can be trusted.

This doesn’t have to be a qualified electrician – though that is a great option. Depending on your business, there may be someone on your staff who’s knowledgeable enough about your appliances to check that everything is in working order.

If you or someone in your company is completing the assessment, you can buy PAT testing equipment to carry out the test. Depending on the level of test you’re doing, you can buy simple PAT testers or more detailed ones. These testers work by connecting to whatever you’re testing and notifying you of a pass or fail status via the LED screen.

You can also find companies dedicated to PAT testing. These companies will test your appliances and provide you with a record of their test status – a good choice for those who want peace of mind when it comes to the safety of their devices. If you’ve done your own visual inspection of your portable appliances and are concerned about the results, hiring a professional can be the safest option.

Whichever route you choose is up to you as the business owner, but it’s important that whoever does your PAT testing has:

  • the proper equipment to do the test
  • a strong understanding of what the PAT test results mean
  • an understanding of the PAT test process

Your PAT testing cost will depend on whether you test in-house with a purchased testing machine or hire a third party to complete the assessment for you.

How do I get a PAT test certificate?

As PAT testing is not a legal requirement, there is no official PAT testing certificate for your devices. Whilst you’re not required to keep a record of the safety and maintenance of your appliances, it’s still a good idea. As well as keeping your employees and clients safe, it’s also a great tool for inventory management and insurance purposes.

How you want to track the status of your appliances is up to you. You can use a dedicated PAT testing log book, individual certificates, or stickers on each device. You can make your own or buy templates online.

There’s no specific guidance on what needs to be included on your PAT test certificate but some ideas to include are:

  • appliance name/ID/serial number
  • date of test
  • name of tester
  • rating or score
  • electrical information such as voltage or fuse details

Keep the results of your PAT test in a safe and accessible place in case you ever need to look up or prove the results.

What happens if my appliances don't pass the test?

If one of your appliances fails its PAT test, it might not need to be replaced immediately. Depending on the cause of the failure, an engineer may be able to repair your device. Once repaired, the device is eligible for a second PAT test. Always trust a professional’s opinion regarding the safety of your appliances.

Occasionally an appliance may fail its PAT test because it’s reached the end of its life. In this instance, you should replace the device with a new one. New appliances won’t need to be PAT tested as they should be sold in proper working order – however, a basic visual inspection before you use the device for the first time can be a good idea.

How often do you PAT test your appliances? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photograph: auremar/
Rosanna Parrish

Written by

Rosanna Parrish

​​Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business, specialising in legal and HR content. Trained at London College of Communication, she has been creating content professionally for eight years at publications across the UK and Spain. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world. Rosanna also writes about wellbeing in the workplace. She lives by the sea and does her best writing in coffee shops.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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