Portable appliance testing (PAT) process

Low-risk environments (offices areas)

Arranging PAT

It is the responsibility of the Head of Department/section/business unit to ensure PAT is carried out at the appropriate intervals. They should appoint a member of staff (e.g. the HSLO) to co-ordinate this on their behalf.

The process (Colchester Campus)

A flowchart (.pdf) provides an overview of how to arrange a formal visual inspection (if applicable) or combined PAT.

  1. Use one of the following inventories to list all your portable electrical equipment that requires PAT. Don’t forget to look in stores for infrequently used items:

  1. Refer to the Frequency of Testing Table in the Guidance for Low Risk Environments (.pdf) to identify what needs testing and how often
  2. It is recommended that you use separate lists for equipment that needs PAT 1, 2 or 3 yearly, or use the excel filter button to sort by year.
  3. Send the inventory to the EMS Helpdesk
  4. You will be contacted by the Technical Assistant, who will review the inventory with you and agree a date and time for the contractor to do the PAT testing
  5. The Technical Assistant will remind you one week and one day beforehand.
  6. On the day your PAT is due to take place, please prepare by informing staff beforehand and:
    • Ask them to ensure that their equipment is available for testing. This includes equipment that is stored away (e.g. Christmas lights.)
    • Advise them that their equipment, including computers (if they are on the inventory for that year) will need to be turned off and that there needs to be reasonable access to the plugs. (It is not necessary to unplug the items).

    NOTE: If the contractor is unable to complete PAT because the department hasn’t prepared, a call out fee will be charged to the department and EMS will reschedule the testing.

  7. The contractor will advise you if any items failed PAT and will put a “Fail” sticker on the equipment. You will need to ensure failed items are taken out of use until repaired or disposed of.
  8. The contractor will send you a PAT report within 2 weeks of the test date. Keep this safe in readiness for your health and safety inspection.
  9. EMS will carry out monitoring to ensure failed items are removed or repaired within a workable timeframe.
  10. EMS will also hold a record of inspection and testing they arrange.

Southend and Loughton Campuses

The Estates Technical Assistant will arrange PAT in liaison with Southend/Loughton-based staff.

Departments that carry out their own PAT

Requirements for departments that carry out their own PAT can be found under the section on high-risk environments below.

Frequency of testing

A formal, regular programme of PAT is necessary. The intervals between carrying out simple visual user checks, formal visual inspections and combined PAT need to take account of the type of equipment, how it is used and the working environment. This should be based on industry guidance and/or risk assessment. Initially the following frequencies should be followed, but this could be varied depending on the outcome of PAT.

IT Services maintenance contracts

IT Services do not provide a service to carry out formal visual inspections or combined PAT under their maintenance contracts. This includes new and existing equipment, such as printers, computers or laptops. When IT Services are required to move IT equipment, a simple visual check only will be carried out by IT Services personnel. Should potential faults be identified, IT Services will liaise with the person responsible for that equipment.

Brand new electrical equipment

Brand new electrical equipment should not require PAT if purchased from a reputable UK supplier, however, please refer below to the exceptions regarding secondhand purchases or purchases from suppliers outside of the UK.

The person responsible for the area where the electrical equipment will be used should ensure a simple visual check is carried out before the equipment is connected to the mains supply for the first time. Any immediately visible faults which may have occurred when the item was manufactured or during delivery can then be identified, and the equipment removed or replaced. The inventory for that area should be updated with the details of any new electrical equipment.

Note: some areas may have local rules which require either a formal visual inspection or combined PAT to be carried out before electrical equipment is connected to the mains supply for the first time or on each occasion it is moved or taken out of storage to ensure equipment is electrically safe and suitable for the environment where it will be used.

Secondhand equipment and suppliers outside the UK

If equipment is secondhand or purchased directly from a supplier based outside the UK, it will require PAT. Irrespective of where in the world work equipment is purchased from, it must be safe to use at the University and comply with European and/or UK legislation and standards.

If in doubt, arrange for a combined PAT. Our work equipmentwork equipmentwork equipment guidance will help you check whether equipment is fit for purpose and safe to use. The inventory for that area should be updated with the details of any newly acquired electrical equipment.

Electrical equipment on hire, lease or loan

The company supplying electrical equipment for hire or lease is responsible for carrying out combined PAT each time that equipment is hired and for making the results available to the hirer or lessee. If you hire or lease electrical equipment, you should check the terms of the contract or agreement regarding regular inspection, testing and maintenance by either party and that the PAT record is up to date prior to accepting the equipment.

Examples of hire, lease or loan equipment are:

  • vending machines, branded display cabinets or fridges
  • sound and lighting equipment (this type of equipment may be susceptible to damage due to continual handling and packing for storage)
  • long-term hire or leased equipment by contractors

Where electrical equipment is issued on a loan basis, whether chargeable or not, the department/section/business unit which loans the equipment is responsible for carrying out appropriate maintenance (including PAT) and keeping suitable records. Typical details should include the type of PAT carried out, the date the test was carried out and the outcome of that test.

The person responsible for loaning particular electrical equipment may wish to carry out PAT more often, however the frequencies indicated below should be the minimum. A simple visual check by the user is advisable before connecting electrical equipment to the mains supply which is on hire, lease or loan. Do not use electrical equipment which has any visible faults or damage; return it straight away.

Personally-owned electrical equipment

Your Head of Department/section/business unit is responsible for authorising the use of personally-owned electrical equipment on the University premises, whether for University purposes or not. For example, approval might relate to equipment used in offices or laboratories, the type of equipment allowed and/or frequency of use.

Simple visual checks

Everyone is encouraged to carry out simple visual checks (.pdf) of the electrical equipment they use or own to make sure there are no immediately visible signs of damage before it is connected to the mains supply.

If you are concerned about the safety of electrical equipment, do not use it. Switch it off if safe to do so and immediately contact the person responsible for electrical safety in your area.

Equipment used for University work or study

Any privately-owned electrical equipment must receive PAT where it is approved and used for University purposes. Such equipment should be included in the inventory of electrical equipment for the area in which it is/will be used, with no cost to the owner of the equipment.

The minimum frequency of PAT should be in accordance with the tables in low risk environments (.pdf) and higher risk environments or activities (.pdf), or with local rules where more frequent PAT may be required.

Equipment not used for University work or study

If you are concerned about the suitability of personally-owned electrical equipment to be connected to the UK mains supply or where a safety check is required, the Estate Management SectionEstate Management SectionEstate Management Section will carry out a formal visual inspection or combined PAT and a nominal charge made. Low voltage equipment such as mobile phone and iPad chargers only requires simple visual checks.

Prohibited or dangerous electrical equipment

Certain electrical equipmentelectrical equipmentelectrical equipment is dangerous and prohibited from use in offices and/or study bedrooms because they present a significant risk of fire and/or electrocution.

Disposal of electrical equipment

Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2006, electrical and electronic wasteelectrical and electronic wasteelectrical and electronic waste must be disposed of responsibly and recycled where possible.

Labelling equipment that has received PAT

Equipment that has received a formal visual inspection or combined PAT should be labelled to indicate that it has been inspected/tested and has passed or failed that inspection/test.

To aid those responsible for ensuring the safety of electrical equipment in their area, labels should state the date on which the formal visual inspection / combined PAT took place but not the date for re-testing.

Electrical equipment that has failed PAT

The PAT tester will attach a label to the equipment stating it has failed and the date of the formal visual inspection or combined PAT. An example of a label confirming the item has failed its test is shown here.

Any items which have not passed their PAT must be promptly quarantined so they cannot be used, or for larger equipment isolated and labelled as ‘DO NOT USE’. In either scenario, the person responsible for the equipment should be informed as soon as is practicable. Equipment which has failed PAT must not be put back into use; either the fault/s must be rectified, the equipment must be retested and pass the combined PAT or a decision must be made to responsibly dispose of the item as waste electrical equipmentwaste electrical equipmentwaste electrical equipment.

High-risk environments (laboratories and workshops)

This section of the PAT standard provides information in addition to that given in the guidance on low-risk environments. It covers testing regimes for specialist areas such as laboratories, catering outlets and Theatres. It also includes guidance for departments that carry out their own PAT.

Processes and testing frequency for high-risk environments

Please read Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) Standard: Higher risk environment or activities (.pdf) for guidance on:

  • PAT frequency for specialist / high-risk equipment
  • competence requirements for carrying out PAT and authorisation of PAT testers
  • advice to PAT testers on how to carry out PAT and maintain records

Authorisation to carry out modifications and repairs to electrical equipment

Only those persons with the right level of training and experience for a specific task/s and who are authorised as being competent by the Head of Department/section/business unit or by the Estate Management Section may carry out any maintenance or repair work to electrical equipment.

Depending on the nature of the task, a risk assessment and safe system of work or local rules may need to be in place.

Details of training, competency and authorisation of PAT testers are given in higher risk environments and activities (.pdf).

Damage to electrical equipment during combined PAT

In general, this is rare. However it is possible that due to the internal design of some sensitive electrical equipment damage might occur when combined PAT is carried out, for example with laboratory analysis equipment. It is essential that you inform the PAT tester of any equipment that you know or believe could be sensitive before testing commences. PAT testers will not accept any responsibility for damage to electrical equipment or loss of data as part of standard PAT procedures.

Record keeping

Keeping records of completed PAT

Whilst the law does not require records to be kept, inventories of PAT and their outcomes help the University and those responsible for electrical equipment in their area to keep track of their assets.

Records of maintenance should preferably be kept for at least three years after the date when it is removed from the area or responsibly disposed of. Submitted inventories and PAT results should be kept together by the Head of Department/Section/Business Unit. These records are a useful management tool for reviewing the frequency of inspection and testing, and ensuring all portable items belonging to an area have been tested. Without these records, managers cannot be certain that inspection and/or testing have in fact been carried out.

Records may be requested by the University or other external parties as part of an inspection, investigation or formal audit process in order to verify that equipment is appropriately maintained and safe to use.

Keeping an inventory of electrical equipment requiring PAT

The inventory should specify all University-owned portable and moveable electrical equipment (including items under any ITS maintenance contract); do not include items which are under a hire or lease contract where PAT is not the responsibility of the University.

Maintaining an accurate inventory, also sometimes known as an asset register, will help to ensure that electrical equipment is appropriately inspected and/or tested at regular frequencies. The PAT process will be more efficient too; by providing an inventory, the PAT testers will know which equipment needs to be tested and where it is located. This should minimise the duration that electrical equipment will not be available to use and any potential disruption to individuals. Should an item of electrical equipment not be regularly inspected and/or tested, it could continue to be in use whilst potentially being electrically unsafe. Maintaining an accurate inventory will help you to prevent this situation arising.

Unless agreed otherwise with the Estates Technical Assistant inventories and accompanying test results provided by PAT testers must be held at a local level; the Estate Management Section is unable to provide this service across the University.

Templates to record an inventory of which equipment requires testing and when, are available in Word and Excel formats which can be customised to suit users’ needs.

You may wish to group electrical equipment together which have the same frequency of inspection/testing. Alternatively, you may wish to keep one inventory for all electrical equipment, but which have different frequencies of testing. In the latter case, you should use the shortest testing interval in the inventory rather than the longest.

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