All portable appliances used in the workplace need to be inspected at regular intervals to check that they are safe to use.
PAT (portable appliance testing) should be carried out on any item which has an electrical lead and plug and is designed to be unplugged to use in different locations.
This covers a huge range of items and equipment such as kettles, microwaves, TVs, printers, computers, fans, fax machines and vacuum cleaners.
Keeping Staff Safe
It is the duty of employers and the self employed to ensure that electrical equipment is ‘maintained in a condition suitable for use’ under the EAW laws – The Electricity at Work Regulations.
But it is a MYTH that by law, you need to have your appliances tested and certified as safe every year by a company specialising in PAT.
In low risk workplaces such as offices, it is sufficient that someone with basic electrical knowledge has visually inspected the appliance.
Most problems arise because electrical equipment has been neglected – or an incorrect fuse has been fitted at some point. In most cases, simply looking at the cable and connections will alert you to problems such as loose connections or frayed cables.
There is no legal requirement to have your appliances tested by an outside contractor and they don’t need to have an annual PAT certificate.
But it makes sense that if you employ people, you take great care to ensure their safety so it’s worthwhile having your appliances checked by a competent person.
If you have a lot of appliances, you might well want to invest in a small testing machine for use by a competent employee. It is a very short process – PAT testing usually takes only two to three minutes per item.
The most common minor faults which can be easily fixed prior to the PAT testing are loose wiring or incorrect fuses. Since you can’t tell whether the fuse is correct by simply looking at the time, someone with training in electrical safety will need to check.
Another common problem is bare wires or damage to the flex but this can be easily put right by cutting the flex past the bare wire and reattaching the plug.
(Obviously, the person doing the work needs to know basic electrical safety – such as always switching off and unplugging an item before carrying out a repair like this.)
If you prefer to use a specialist contractor, they will usually provide you with a written record of when the appliance was tested. So, if there is any problem with your equipment the fact that you had the testing carried out will show your commitment to safety.
Often, a small sticker will be attached to each plug showing when it was last tested – and this provides evidence to staff that the item has been inspected and passed as safe.
The recommended time between testing varies depending on the appliance involved but is usually every 12-24 months.
If employees bring in their own appliances – such as toasters or radios – it makes sense to have them tested for your own peace of mind since employers are responsible for the safety of any items on the premises.
If you don’t have your electrical items PAT tested and there is an incident such as a fire, electric shock or a fatality, it will be harder to prove that you have taken your responsibilities under the EAW seriously.
You could be prosecuted if health and safety inspectors believe you have not taken sufficient care to ensure the safety of staff.