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.