Portable Appliance Testing: a key element of health and safety at work and in the home
Portable appliance testing (PAT): when is an appliance portable?
What makes an electrical appliance “portable”? The definition is flexible, and so it might not be immediately apparent which items fulfil the criteria for PAT testing (portable appliance testing) maintenance. The established definition is that a portable appliance is one that has a lead (aka a cord or cable), can be plugged into a conventional electricity socket and can also move. In domestic and office situations that would cover everything from kettles, laptops, photocopiers and printers to vacuum cleaners and televisions.
PAT Testing: the responsibilities of employers and landlords
Whilst the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HES) points out that there is no compulsion with regard to PAT testing, it’s particularly important that employers, the self-employed, and landlords have an in-depth understanding of what is required regarding portable appliance safety for the health and well-being of their employees and tenants. The HES comments that “the law simply requires an employer to ensure that their electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger” and clearly that would indicate regular checks on appliances.
Making PAT a part of your regular procedures
It’s a good idea to have a regular audit of your portable appliances. Portable appliance testing includes both visual checks and testing. The latter will, of course, usually require specialist tools and training. Regular visual checking of electrical equipment to see, for instance, if cables are frayed or damaged, can by done by members of staff. Again, whilst there’s no statutory requirement for records to be kept, it is much easier to maintain up to date records if there’s some formal procedure in place and some standard forms can be found online.
Prioritise: and simplify your PAT Testing
There’s a quick and easy way to prioritise items for PAT. Basically, the more an item is used, and more specifically, moved about, the more likely damage is to occur. A lamp, for instance, may simply be switched on and off regularly. A vacuum cleaner, on the other hand, is frequently moved and dragged about, often on a daily basis. Kettles, too, get heavy use. These are the kinds of items that need to be prioritised and probably tested more regularly. Larger items such as photocopiers may have a lot of use but are usually moved very infrequently.
PAT in testing environments
Wherever electrical tools are in daily use as part of a company’s commercial activities, or are used in testing environments such as oil rigs, clearly there’s an even greater need both for safety awareness and for formal PAT procedures. Remember the following guidelines:
- Establish a set of PAT procedures and institute regular checks.
- Remove from use any electrical items that have damage.
- Make sure all PAT is carried out by a competent person.
- Keep records of scheduled PAT activity.
There’s no reason that the average householder can’t institute their own less formal regular PAT procedures.