Portable Appliance Testers (PAT testers) perform a vital role in the safety of portable electrical appliances in the workplace. In fact, their use is essential in helping employers and the self-employed meet the UK Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and The Electricity at Work Regulations 1982. These regulations dictate that all electrical equipment in the workplace is safe, suitable for purpose and properly maintained.
What is Portable Electrical Equipment?
Portable electrical equipment is defined as any item of equipment that uses electrical current and that is plugged into a socket. The range of portable electrical equipment requiring PAT testing is as broad as it is long, ranging from office and canteen equipment to appliances operating in the harsh environments of, for example, workshops and construction sites.
PAT Tester Types and Uses
There are many types of PAT tester available, ranging from the simple to the complex, reflecting their broad range of application. In low-risk environments, basic off-the-shelf PAT testers can be operated by competent members of staff who've had minimal training. In higher risk environments, more sophisticated PAT testers provide a greater battery of tests plus record keeping, but require the user to be a highly trained specialist.
PAT Tester Calibration
It's vitally important to ensure PAT testers are correctly calibrated. Over time equipment can drift from the original manufacturer's specifications, ultimately affecting the pass and fail criteria. PAT calibration is a complex procedure and should be carried out either by the original manufacturer or approved dealers and service technicians.
Frequency of Testing, the IET and HSE
Generally, the harsher the environment the more regularly the portable electrical equipment needs to be visually inspected and PAT tested. Guidelines for the frequency of testing, along with documents detailing various areas of health and safety and legal requirements, are available at no cost from the Institute of Engineering and Technology and the Health and Safety Executive.