PAT Testing Equipment – Advice on Choosing the Right Type of PAT Testing Equipment

Electrical equipment is one of the most common causes of workplace fires and this is frequently due to a faulty or damaged appliance. Workplace health and safety legislation requires all employers to carry out regular testing on all portable electrical appliances, and to ensure that they are maintained in safe working order.

Whether you buy in the services of a specialist contractor or train your own staff to do your PAT testing in-house will depend on the nature of your workplace and size of your business. Testing courses are normally only a single day, and you can purchase PAT testing equipment very easily. However, there are several different types of PAT tester out there, and you should consider which type is best going to suit your needs before you purchase. This article is intended to help you narrow down your search to find the most appropriate PAT testing equipment.

Pass/Fail Type Equipment

Starting at the beginning, the Pass/Fail sort of devices are the simplest and most basic models, giving only a straight pass or fail result and no further detail. PAT testing equipment can be designed to carry out various different tests, but the pass/fail type tend to only do the insulation and earth continuity tests. They are unlikely to offer the selectable earth continuity test current, which is an important point, as this can be a problem unless you only have a very limited number and type of appliances to test.

The difficulty with PAT testing equipment without a variable current are limited in the equipment they can test reliably. Equipment with a higher current should not be used on IT equipment and testers with a fixed low current are not reliable for testing general electrical appliances. If you need to PAT test a range of different types of appliances accurately you will therefore need to have a selectable current function.

Another restriction with pass/fail PAT testing equipment is that they will have a fixed earth bond pass limit, which does not allow any adjustment. The problem with this is that it can result in some equipment failing the test, simply because they have very long leads, rather than because anything is wrong with them. While it may be tempting to increase the limit to compensate for this, doing so would actually contravene the IEE (Institute of Electrical Engineers) Code of Practice and perfectly good appliances may still not pass.

Manual Testing Equipment

Manual PAT testing equipment has greater functionality than the simple pass/fail type, which can overcome the problems highlighted above. These increased functions and the greater detail and variability do, however, mean that the testers are a bit more complicated, so anyone using them would require a more in depth knowledge in order to fully utilise and understand them. There is therefore an implication for staff training. The selectable earth continuity test current in this type of device makes them suitable for testing IT equipment.

Downloadable Pat Testers

Downloadable PAT testing equipment automates the testing process and stores the results so that they can be printed off or downloaded to a computer. This function can be a great advantage if your premises are particularly large or complicated. These testers can also have other functionality covering all sorts of things, some of which may be of more use than others, depending on your situation.

One function worth looking for is the ability to take true earth bond measurements. This is a feature that can save your testers time, and therefore cost you less. Carrying out earth bond measurements on appliances that have multiple earth paths (on a PC for example) cannot be done without disconnecting it from all other equipment first, unless your PAT tester has this function. That can add a lot of time and money if you have a significant amount of IT equipment to test.

HSE Says PAT Testing Is Not a Legal Requirement – Or Does It?

Recently the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a document entitled “Maintaining portable electric equipment in low-risk environments” which prompted loads of articles, blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. stating that the HSE had announced that there was no law that says PAT Testing is required, and that PAT Testing was illegal or didn’t have to be done.

As someone who has read this article in detail more than once, and seen many of the other articles, and to add to that, put many people right, I need to ask the question – did the source of this myth start with someone who hadn’t read the article correctly?

My first issue: at no point in the document does it say that PAT Testing is illegal
My second issue: at no point in the document does it say that you don’t have to get PAT Tested

In fact the first time the term Portable Appliance Test (PAT) is mentioned the document states “not every electrical item needs a portable appliance test (PAT)”. So my question to all those articles I have read is this; if PAT Testing is in fact illegal, as so many of you have said, then why would the HSE state that not every electrical item needs a PAT Test? Surely if the HSE says not every item needs a PAT test, then it also says that some items DO need a PAT test. Thus it is not saying that PAT Testing is illegal but is in fact saying that PAT Testing IS a requirement.

What the document does say, in depth and I think this is where people are taking it out of proportion is “you must maintain electrical equipment if it can cause danger, but the law* does not say how you must do this or how often”. In this case the law referred to is stated as the Electricity at Work Regulations 1999.

So, you, the business owner or manager must ensure you maintain your electrical equipment if it can cause danger – all electrical equipment can cause danger because it is electrical; it works from electricity, which is dangerous.

How many owners or managers can honestly say that they maintain their electrical equipment on a regular basis and keep records to prove it. As an experience electrical inspection engineer I can honestly say, “not many”.

By conducting what is generally referred to as a PAT Test, you are showing that you are taking action to ensure your electrical appliances are safe, and with the certificate issued you have evidence to prove you have done this.

The second part of the statement says that “the law does not say how you must do this or how often”, but this HSE document and other HSE documents do, as does the Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of electrical equipment, which PAT Testing companies are supposed to work to.