Conducting PAT testing is a routine activity for most electricians. This is often a relatively simple task, which relies on both visual inspections, and the implementation of physical testing procedures.
It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure that workplace equipment is safe for use. Furthermore, it’s in a company’s direct interest to maintain the practical functionality of electrical devices. The reliance on electronic equipment in modern industrial and commercial settings has increased substantially over recent years. Going forward, this trend will continue on the same trajectory path. Therefore, ensuring the effective operation of electrical kit is crucial to most businesses across the UK (and beyond!).
The role of PAT testing
Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is the main vehicle used to provide assurances in this pursuit. Many employers periodically hire electrical professionals to execute this form of testing, which serves to assess performance of relevant equipment. Trained individuals will strength-test the durability of electrical items, and appropriately flag whether these pass or fail. The PAT tester can only deem a device safe for use at the precise moment the examination is undertaken. Therefore, employees should always approach electrical equipment with caution. Just because an item has passed its most recent PAT test, this does not automatically mean it’s fit for purpose. However, clearly the more recent the assessment, the greater likelihood that the equipment is electrically safe to use.
Given the amount of electrical equipment in the contemporary context, PAT testing can be a lucrative venture for electrical workers. Although these assessments are not mandated by law, the vast majority of workplace leadership terms initiate a routine schedule of PAT testing. Therefore, as each and every item is typically tested on an annual basis, this represents a huge financial opportunity for industry stakeholders.
This article focuses on PAT testing pricing considerations, and the general marketplace costs involved with this exercise. As we’ll see, charges vary substantially based on service offered, professionalism of tester, and client profile. However, the text will serve to highlight consistencies in the disciplines’ pricing approach.
It’s perhaps worth noting from the outset that cost should not be the exclusive focus for an employer looking to establish a PAT testing framework. The importance of testing with quality and diligence far outweighs any financial aspect. Ultimately, this service helps to protect the routine safety and wellbeing of employees, and therefore should be respected as a critical endeavour that requires appropriate funding.
Testing standards and expectations
As referenced, there is no legal requirement to conduct PAT testing. However, failure to provide evidence of suitable management control in this area would serve to undermine a business’ innocence in a court of law. As alluded to above, the general industry-recognized approach is to test each electrical device once per year. However, in spite of what you may hear on the factory or office floor, this is not a compulsory timeframe to adhere to.
Furthermore, as there is no lawful precedent, there is technically no need to contract an electrical professional to carry out tests. In the vast majority of cases, it would be unwise to deploy anyone other than a fully-qualified electrician. However, in small office blocks, which harbour low footfall and few electronic devices, a responsible internal employee may be able to deliver testing. Nevertheless, they should be comprehensively trained by an electrical professional, with work regularly sense-checked by another competent person.
These instances are few and far between. On the whole, it is hugely encouraged that those examining equipment are either specifically trained in the discipline of PAT testing, or are fully-fledged electricians who offer PAT testing services.
Untrained electrical workers
Unfortunately some individuals operating in this space are not trained to carry out proper assessments, despite claiming to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to do so. This can put workforces at risk. Rogue testers have been known to deliver (or not deliver as the case may be!) work that undermines the safety of colleagues. Individuals who havn’t received appropriate training could potentially:
- Duplicate testing results. Those who haven’t bothered to commit to the relevant training will most likely be lazy by nature. Re-manufacturing the same results for different appliances is an easy way to cut corners and save time.
- Conduct lacklustre visual inspections, missing faults and repair requirements.
- Produce PAT testing ‘pass’ labels for items not examined.
- Either use incorrect equipment for physical testing, or not execute these tests at all.
It must be remembered that getting electrical testing wrong can result in serious, or even fatal, injury. Therefore, any of these factors could potentially conspire to hugely compromise the safety of the individuals delivering the tests, a company’s employees, and, in some cases, the general public.
There is temptation here, as untrained, unskilled individuals will most likely offer heavily discounted rates. For start-up and small, local businesses, this may feel quite difficult to refuse. However, the long-term cost of getting this wrong far outweighs the immediate, short-term, outlay. Incorrectly presenting equipment as safe to use could extensively damage a company’s brand and reputation, and incur colossal legal fees. It simply isn’t worth hiring someone not fit to carry out the job properly.
PAT testing costs, and its lucrative financial opportunity
This doesn’t mean that business shouldn’t shop around for good value. Indeed, the bandwidth in quality, breadth and cost of PAT testing services is huge, even within professional circles. On average, trained testers will charge approximately £1-2 per item. However, given the volume of equipment often required to be tested, this can represent a sizeable gap between least and most expensive operators. Furthermore, this is only a ballpark figure, with some providers offering prices above and below the £1-2 mark.
Indeed, the scale of the opportunity can be understood when reviewing the number of appliances which will most likely need to be assessed. A typical office block could potentially have hundreds, if not thousands of items to check. An industrial enterprise could need up to a few hundred pieces of equipment examined, with units often bulkier and more complex than those found on a standard office floor. For this type of work, electricians will often charge more towards the top-end of the parameters articulated above.
It’s reported that, on average, a relatively experienced, fully-trained electrician can deliver upwards of 150 industrial PAT checks on any given day. In an office, this figure increases to 300. Therefore, one can safely assume that most electrical professionals will earn approximately £300 per day for conducting PAT testing.
However, one should not review these costs in isolation. Indeed, at first glance, prices may seem quite expensive to the employer, and extremely lucrative to the electrician. However, there are hidden elements that testers must account for when preparing quotes. The charge of £1-2 per item must be profitable based not only on carrying out the physical examination, but also on any other time and resource deployed to facilitate this activity. Travel, VAT, time, labels (used to denote whether an item has passed or failed), and any other additional materials will all need to be factored into the overall cost.
Furthermore, it should be noted that many buildings will remain operational throughout testing programmes. Therefore, electricians need to mitigate against a number of dynamics that could serve to increase time on the job. This could include the logging off of terminals, an organisation involved in temporary closing down a factory process, identifying the location of equipment, and physically gaining access to rooms. Thus, prices should never be taken at face value! Electricians may also offer discounts on mass testing, so businesses with more modest budgets should seek to exploit this opportunity where possible.
There is also considerable variance in the comprehensiveness of services provided. This should be kept in mind when conducting comparative research into the prices of different electrical contractors. Some will simply offer a testing service, flagging faults, and marking items which have successfully passed. Others will attempt to resolve any outstanding issues, either on the spot, or via arranging a future visit. However, certain advertised rates may represent an all-encompassing package, with PAT testing forming just part of a wider service arrangement.
In any scenario, employers should understand what their requirements are, and locate the most suitable based on their needs.
As we’ve seen, PAT testing costs can vary wildly. However, there should be no ground conceded in the pursuit of promoting the safety of workforces. Therefore, regardless of cost, quality, or service offered, businesses need to feel confident that the electrical worker hired is reliable enough to conduct the assessments.
Businesses should take time to review the potential contractor or firm being hired. Furthermore, decisions should leverage cost implications against the level of safety assurance provided. The most expensive option is not always the most appropriate, but fixating on the cheapest one may cause serious harm to credibility, colleague safety and future long-term financial health.
In certain cases, where equipment is basic and few in number, deploying a modestly trained individual to conduct PAT testing may be deemed acceptable. However, in an overwhelming number of situations, only a fully-competent electrical professional will suffice.
We hope that this article has served to strengthen your knowledge around the cost of PAT testing. If you require any further information, it may be worth consulting an industry professional, or conducting your own personal online research. A simple google search will most likely provide some additional insight.
And, remember, before you pick up an electrical item in the workplace, check it’s been appropriately PAT tested!