Portable Appliance (PAT) Testing & the Law

The following is a brief summary of the legislation relating to the maintenance of electrical equipment and is to provide an awareness of the statutory requirements. It is not intended as an appraisal of the authoritative organisations, or to replace similar guidance in the publications referred to below, and must not therefore be considered to constitute legal advice.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

Personnel in the work place have responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of others and are deemed to be duty holders in law, and include employers, employees and the self-employed.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that electrical equipment for use in the workplace is safe at all times.

Employees duties should ensure that they provide for the safety of themselves and others. This will require such persons to ensure that electrical equipment used in the workplace is maintained in a safe condition and used in a safe manner.

Self Employed persons effectively have the combined duties of both employers and employees.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992

The term work equipment in connection to electrical apparatus includes all electrical equipment used in the work place. Where electrical equipment is likely to pose a Health and Safety Risk all repairs, modifications, maintenance and service of must be restricted to specifically trained persons to carry out such tasks.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

These regulations where made under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The regulations within this act have more detailed HSE requirements for duty holders with respect to the use of Electricity at Work.

HSE memorandum of guidance on these regulations (HS(R)25) includes a recommendation for inspection and testing of electrical equipment to be necessary part of any maintenance programme. Regulation 4(2) is the statutory requirements for electrical equipment to be maintained where danger would otherwise arise.

Safety Issues

Primary dangers to users of electrical equipment are those arising from electric shock, fire and burns.

Electric Shock can result either from the breakdown of insulation of the appliance or a fault condition where exposed metal parts become live due to failure within the protective conductor in the flexible cord or cable that in turn connects to the connection with in the plug or similar.

Fire arising from the use of electrical equipment may result in danger to personnel (e.g. Inhalation of smoke or fumes) or damage to equipment and buildings.

Inspection and subsequent effective testing is intended to find loose connections in cords and cables and internal faults within equipment. Fuses are checked to ensure that that they meet BS 1362 and are fitted in plugs manufactured to BS 1363.

The inspection process also ensures that the correct selection of fuse has been used to ensure instant disconnection from supply in event the appliance or flexible supply lead becoming faulty or damaged resulting in possible fire.


Burns due to direct contact may be caused by live parts becoming exposed or because of a damaged cord or flexible lead.
Burns as result of indirect contact can be caused by electromagnetic radiation produced by equipment generating high frequencies. A typical example of such equipment is a microwave oven, that incorporate door seals and cut-off switches intended to prevent leakage. Such equipment should be tested to ensure that opening of the door effectively cuts off the supply.

Inspection/ Examination/Test

This is carried out by a competent technician, who has had the necessary training and experience in the maintenance of electrical equipment.

The casing, connecting lead and plug or the connector of the equipment will be subjected to a thorough examination for not only obvious visible defects but also to ensure that the appliance suits the environment and the nature of the work undertaken.

The supply socket outlet or spur unit is also inspected and tested for polarity.

The inspection will include:

The Casing of the equipment is of sound construction and relative to its working environment with all fixings in place and no signs of overheating. The technician will insure that there is adequate ventilation in and around the equipment and there is no possible access for fingers or liquid to access live or moving parts.

The connecting lead should be routed where damage is unlikely to occur; avoiding crossing doorways or under carpets. The flexible lead should be undamaged with no signs of being crushed, fraying or damage to the insulation and should be of a suitable length for its intended use.

The Plug Thirteen amp (13A) plugs that may be subjected to rough use should be manufactured to BS 1363A and suitable to accommodate a 1.5 sq mm cable, anything larger should be connected to a industrial type plug conforming to BS 4343 (BS EN 60309-2) if not permanently wired.

The Fuse should be checked for correct current rating. Appliances having a rating of less than 700 watts should be protected by a fuse rated at 3 amps, above 700 watts may need to be protected by 13 amp rated fuse (other ratings may be selected to match equipment wattages) hand held motorised equipment such as drills, sanders etc may require 13 amp fuse protection even though the wattage may indicate a lower rating may be used. The fuse must be secure in its fixing with no signs of overheating and should carry an approved safety mark such as the ASTA symbol and should be constructed to BS 1362.

Tests Using a Portable Appliance Tester

  • Earth Continuity
  • Insulation
  • Polarity
  • Leakage Current
  • Flash Test (optional)