Portable Appliance Testing

Portable Appliance Testing – why have this done?

Who should read this article?

Any business that uses portable electrical appliances in the workplace.

UK law says that employers must make sure that they provide and maintain a safe working environment for their employers. They are also responsible for the health and safety of members of the public, where they are at risk from the business’s work activities this responsibility includes electrical safety and, as part of implementing an effective health and safety policy. Employers should make sure that all the electrical appliances provided in the workplace are safe and in good condition.

Poor standards of maintenance can lead to:

  • Fires
  • Electrical shocks (which can be fatal)
  • Burn injuries, and
  • Other injuries caused as a result of a shock or burn, such as falls or trauma.

In addition, trailing leads can be trip hazards, potentially causing serious injury to anyone in the premises.

Assessing the risks

Health and safety legislation requires the risks in the workplace to be identified and assessed and the necessary measures to ensure safety to be implemented although the legislation does not specifically require electrical appliances to be tested, it docs require them to be maintained in a safe condition.

Employers can satisfy their legal obligations by putting in place a programme of combined visual inspection and appliance testing, where necessary. The electrical industry has developed a portable appliance test (PAT) which tests portable electrical appliances to make sure that they comply with minimum standards of safety.

Defining portable electrical equipment

Portable electrical appliances are items that have a cable or lead and a plug and that are either easily or regularly moved around, or that could be moved around. In an office environment this type of appliance would be:

  • Kettles, heaters, fans, mobile air conditioning units:
  • Computes, photocopiers, printers, faxes, shredders:
  • Mail processing machines:
  • Televisions, monitors, vacuum, cleaners, and desk lamps.

In other workplaces, such as hotels and catering establishments, portable appliances would include items such as hairdryers, food mixers and food processors, laundry equipment and floor cleaners. In workshops and small factories all manner of portable power tools would be included.


At the start of a maintenance programme it is a good idea to have electrical appliances PAT tested to make sure they all have a clean bill of health. Minor faults can be rectified or the appliance replaced if it is not considered to be in safe working order. Thereafter, most appliances will only need to be visually inspected to make sure that the equipment, the cable and the plug are not damaged.

In a low – risk environment such as an office this visual inspection can be undertaken by a member of staff, provided he or she knows what to look for and who to tell if he or she finds anything that looks to be unsafe. Items that are not moved very often, such as computers, or some double – insulated equipment, such as table lamps, only need to have a formal visual inspection every two or four years, although uses should always report any apparent fault or damage.

Some electrical faults are not apparent in a visual inspection – particularly lack of continuous earths. For some appliances the earth is essential to safety, so earthed equipment (and the cables and plugs connected to it) should have a combined formal visual inspection and test to detect any hidden faults. Appliances such as electric kettles and some floor cleaners fall into this category and the health and safety executive suggests that they should be visually inspected at intervals of six months to a year, and given a combined formal inspection and test every year.


There are many specialist firms that carry out visual inspections and PAT testing, using trained technicians (who comply with the institute of electrical engineering code of practice) and specialist testing equipment.

Generally, in – service testing is carried out, involving an initial visual assessment, followed by testing of the appliance and its associated cable or lead. Any minor faults that are detected (such as fuses) are repaired and the appliance re – tested. A print – out of test results for each appliance is provided. This not only provides a useful record to demonstrate that health and safety matters are taken seriously but also helps to determined how frequently testing should be undertaken. If successive tests show very low levels of faults, the testing interval might be increased.

Although the test for each appliance is quite quick to complete, in – service testing in a busy office can cause a certain amount of disruption to office procedures as staff are not able to use computers, printers, etc while they are being tested. In large concerns that use very many appliances the possibility of arranging out – of – hours testing might be worth the additional cost.


The electrical equipment (safety) regulations require landlords to make sure that electrical appliances provided as part of the tenancy are safe to use when first supplied – to each time the property is re – let, landlords should make sure that these appliances are provided in a safe condition and put in place a programme of formal visual inspection and testing to achieve this.


We are able to offer P.A.Testing at a cost of just £3.95 per item plus V.A.T.

Please see top of page for contact details.