Why do I need to carry it out? The Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989 places a duty of care on employers and landlords to maintain electrical systems to prevent danger where otherwise it may exist, the term electrical systems refers to all parts of an installation including portable appliances. The most efficient and comprehensive way of ensuring your duties are performed and adequate records are kept is by performing Portable Appliance testing (PAT) in accordance with the IET Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment. By following this practice, you can be sure that your obligations have been met under the Health and Safety at Work Act so far as electrical safety is concerned and more importantly that your staffs, visitors, patients, buildings and possessions are safe.
Who is responsible? Realistically, everybody has a duty to ensure the safety of others whilst at work; however, the Duty Holder will have ultimate responsibility for electrical safety. If nobody at your place of work is clear on who that is, then the responsibility falls on the most senior person. It is important to know who has the responsibility for safety and welfare of staff in order to establish that compliance is achieved.
What does it involve? Portable appliance testing requires a series of visual inspections and electronic tests to be performed to establish the safety and suitability of your electrical appliances. If performed correctly, you can expect that each electrical appliance within your workplace will have to be de energised for a period of 2-5 minutes whilst a engineer from swift pat injects test signals into the cable and appliance to ensure their integrity and carries out a thorough visual inspection of the appliance, its plug top and lead. This type of work does not require the main supply to be isolated and with careful planning can be done with little disruption to your business. Alternatively, this work can be carried out whilst your workplace is empty, such as nights, weekends or holiday periods.
Who should do the work? It is vital that this type of work is carried by a qualified and experienced test Operative. Such Operatives are generally not fully qualified electricians, but are competent people who have experience of test and inspection and have been trained and qualified in PAT inspection work specifically. When selecting your contractor you should ask to see evidence of their qualifications and experience in this type of work.
Will it impact on my workplace? There will be some impact such as short periods of downtime on appliances; however, with careful planning and strong liaison between you and swift pat, this can be conducted at a time that best suits your business. Be wary of contractors that tell you this work can be fully carried out without isolating appliances it is impossible.
What will I receive? Upon completion of Portable Appliance testing you should receive a report that details the following as a minimum:
An inventory containing each appliance type, name, location and description
A full set of test results for each appliance tested
A full list of any failed items with an explanation of their failure
A visible pass or fail label on each appliance detailing the inspection date, next test due and the inspectors signature.
If you are not a technical person, then your swift pat engineer should be pleased to talk through your report with you and advise you of any further action required.
How much will it cost? There are many factors that can affect the cost of Portable Appliance Testing such as volume of appliances, location, access and availability appliances. As a rule of thumb, you can approximate the number of appliances in a typical commercial environment by multiplying the number of staff by 4, although this is not entirely accurate it will be sufficient to use as a guideline. If in doubt, your contractor should be able to guide you, however, it is always good practice to establish a cost per test quote as this will cover both parties.
What could happen if I do not do it? There are many reasons not to do Portable Appliance Testing such as cost, inconvenience, or lack of knowledge. However none of these reasons will be accepted as a defence in the event that an accident or fire occurs. Aside from the threat of prosecution in the event of injury or death, surely the safety of your colleagues, employees, patients or belongings are reason enough to test and inspect electrical systems at work.