PAT testing is the name given to the routine inspection of electrical equipment in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to ensure all appliances are fit for purpose, and safe for colleagues to use. Given society’s increasing dependence of electronic devices, PAT testing has become an extremely important endeavour in recent years. Businesses, in both public and private sectors, need electrical equipment to function correctly. Without this, production lines may fail, productivity levels can dip, and data may become inaccessible.
Moreover, PAT testing allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to keeping employees safe. Hiring an electrician to periodically conduct these assessments shows a solid level of management control. From a welfare perspective, protecting staff from the risk of electrical shock is clearly an essential enterprise. However, there is also a financial aspect to consider. Failing to execute adequate checks on electrical equipment, particularly if this results in injury, would serve to undermine a brands reputation. It may also lead to expensive legal costs if taken to court over the matter.
Despite the evident importance of PAT testing, there is no legislative requirement to conduct this form of electrical testing. Nevertheless, most organizations will initiate these assessments on an annual basis. In theory, given that there is no formal statutory obligation in place, any individual can execute this testing procedure. However, it is highly recommended that only trained, electrical professionals carry out this activity. In some specific cases, it may be suitable for an internal, competent person to deliver PAT tests. This could be in an office of low footfall, where basic electronic equipment is used sporadically. Nevertheless, these individuals should still receive initial training from an experienced electrotechnical worker.
To ensure that all assessments are valid, businesses should comprehensively review prospective testers before hiring. On average, PAT testing is charged at approximately £1-2 per unit, therefore, it can quickly become an expensive cost line. For small and medium-sized enterprises, the temptation of opting for a cheaper, less trustworthy contractor is substantial. However, the potential long-term impacts of getting this wrong are huge. As alluded to earlier, becoming embroiled in a legal battle with an injured employee will not only drain finances, but will also compromise the credibility of the business. Therefore, companies should only hire electricians that they believe has the required skill-set, and level of integrity, to perform the task compliantly.
The process of PAT testing
Remember, in any given round of PAT testing, each and every item within a commercial or industrial space will be checked. In some buildings, this can result in literally thousands of inspections. Therefore, it’s crucial that electricians keep an accurate and organized testing record of each individual appliance. These logs will be captured through various methods. The most obvious tracker of equipment tested is through the deployment of PAT testing labels. These relatively basic stickers vary depending on manufacturer, but usually declare a few salient pieces of information. This will include whether the item has passed or failed, the name of the contractor completing, and the date the test was conducted.
Furthermore, most reputable electricians will keep either a digital or manual list of all equipment encountered. These detailed pages include an analysis of every single appliance, which references reasons for failure, and any immediate action required in order to address the issue. Dependent on the service option selected by the client, electricians may be empowered to resolve the fault there and then. However, if the defect is substantial, or appropriate tools not available, the tester may have to schedule a re-visit. At the conclusion of the test, electricians should directly liaise with their customer, and inform them of the outcome of the assessment.
The importance and format of certification
However, more importantly, a tester must also produce an appropriate PAT testing certificate. This demonstrates that a business has adhered to regulatory guidance, and suitably organized the inspection of electrical equipment. Therefore, original copies of this certification should be stored in a compliance cabinet for due diligence purposes. This means that on arrival of an internal or external auditor, companies will be able to easily highlight their efforts towards keeping staff members safe from electrical hazards.
Although not as thorough as the detailed reports referenced earlier, PAT certificates include all necessary information to prove compliance. A suitable certificate will reference the testing location’s address, the name of the electrical firm performing the tests, the expiry date of the current testing cycle, and the signature of the deliverer. Therefore, in the event of a major issue, both the tester and their parent company be easily identified and contacted. This holds these stakeholders to account, and provides appropriate transparency.
The certificate may also include some specific electrical readings. Measurements such as item voltage, fuse rating in amperes, insulation resistance level, and earth continuity flow, may all feature. However, as alluded to, it’s largely the case that this level of detail is reserved for the engineer’s extended report.
There is no official PAT testing certificate used throughout the industry. Therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a high degree of variance between the differing validating documents in circulation. However, it is compulsory that any certificate ‘template’ is produced by a fully-trained individual. Those created locally by the company whose appliances are being tested will not be accepted as a legitimate proof of delivery. Only qualified electrical professionals, or individuals who have successfully navigated the C&G 2377-77 EET/PAT testing course (or an equivalent qualification), are authorised to craft a certificate template. This demonstrates another reason why it is always favourable to opt for a fully-qualified electrician to conduct PAT testing.
Certificate costs are usually integrated into the overall service price. Some electrical firms will offer a comprehensive package, incorporating any rectification, future preventative measures, and even alternative electrical works as part of their approach. Others may just deliver the tests in isolation. Businesses should review their requirements, and adopt a service that best fits their operational needs. Importantly, they should never prioritize price over safety, even if this involves spending a little more than planned. There is no substitute for assurance and peace of mind!
Regardless of the service opted for, employers need to ensure they secure an official PAT testing certificate. Without this, it would be far more difficult to demonstrate their compliance in a court of law.
Hopefully, this article has served to illustrate the central importance of performing PAT tests in the workplace. Although certification isn’t as detailed as the extended reports produced by the testing electrician, the information included in this documentation is imperative for creating a line of traceability. Moreover, it allows businesses to showcase their commitments towards colleague safety, and demonstrates a level of management control.
Remember, apart from in certain, low-key contexts, PAT testing should always be delivered by a trained, electrical professional. Furthermore, these individuals are the only ones empowered to construct PAT certificate templates.
Businesses should always do their homework, and research prospective contractors before hiring them to complete their PAT testing requirements. As previously referenced, cutting costs by accepting a sub-standard worker may lead to grave long-term consequences. Therefore, businesses should hire someone they trust, and never prioritize budget or safety.
If you’re interested in becoming a PAT tester, then it may be worth checking out the associated C&G course (other skills certifiers are available). Information can be found on the relevant City and Guilds webpage, located here.
If you’re part of a business leadership team responsible for organizing PAT testing, then please refer to the advice detailed in this article. As referenced on several occasions, it’s essential to locate a reputable, high-quality electrician to execute this routine, but nevertheless extremely important, activity.
Thanks for reading, and, whenever you’re in the workplace, remember to check whether a piece of electrical equipment has been PAT tested prior to use!