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Testing times

03 July 2019

Does portable appliance testing (PAT) need to be outsourced?, asks James Marston, learning and development manager at the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc)

Failure to maintain electrical equipment is a major cause of accidents in the workplace. The likelihood of incidents occurring, and their severity varies depending on the type of electrical equipment, the way in which it is used and the environment it is used in. 

As there are no legal requirements, deciding the frequency of inspection and testing comes down to a personal judgement, and should be determined through risk assessment, manufacturers recommendations and industry advice, as well as considering the type of equipment, environment and the likelihood of deterioration. For example, a rotary floor machine poses a much greater risk than a lamp in a hotel bedroom, and therefore should be tested more regularly. 

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recommended frequency of testing for class 1 equipment (requiring earth) – for example, a floor machine or vacuum cleaner – is six-months to one-year, whereas heavy duty equipment with many safety features may need checking as frequently as every week. I often come across businesses that outsource these checks to another company, handing over the responsibility, but in the majority of circumstances these checks can be done internally saving money and giving the organisation greater control over the safety of their employees. Should checks over time identify that deterioration is minimal then the time between inspections can be extended saving more time and resources.

In low risk environments such as offices, annual portable appliance testing (PAT) is not always necessary. In some cases, a simple user check is enough, for example checking for loose cables and signs of damage and, if possible, checking inside the plug for internal damage and bare wires. Employees should check supply cables and electrical equipment before each use, ensuring that any damaged or faulty equipment is promptly removed. 

To carry out a more enhanced visual inspection or portable appliance test (PAT) you don’t need to be an electrician, but you do need to know what to look for and have some training and specialist equipment. These can be done internally potentially at a lower cost over time and are promoted by the HSE as a good method of maintaining portable electric equipment. 

The HSE provides a variety of guides and regulations where you can find out more about conducting your own portable appliance testing inhouse. Visit their website to find out more https://www.hse.gov.uk.