The importance of Portable Appliance Testing the workplace Portable Appliance Testing – PAT is an important element in ensuring electrical safety in the work environment. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 state that any electrical appliance that has the potential to cause harm, must be maintained in a safe condition. PAT can be broken down into two procedures. Firstly, a visual check for damage i.e. cables, connecting plugs and a general inspection for damage. Secondly, an electrical check that can show less obvious and potentially lethal problems with the appliances electrical systems. The checks should be carried out by a competent, trained person with adequate knowledge of the systems under test. There are a number of reasons for carrying out PAT on a regular basis.
Safety of the Workforce
The regulations state that it is the duty of an employer to protect the workforce from damage in the workplace from electrical hazards. It doesn’t legislate on exactly how this is to be carried out, however regular portable appliance tests are the most logical method of complying with this part of the legislation.
Reduction of the risk of fire hazards
Badly maintained electrical equipment will increase the likelihood of a fire caused by an electrical breakdown. PAT with significantly reduce the risk to property and personnel. It is of particular importance when appliances are moved frequently as this increases the chances of damage to cables and appliance structure.
As part of a risk assessment, the majority of insurance companies will require a copy of the PAT register to ensure that the building and equipment is being regularly tested and maintained. Failure to produce the document, or failure to keep it up to date could result in a refusal to insure the business, or at least, highly inflated insurance costs.
Health & Safety regulations
There are a number of regulations that need to be complied with along with the Electricity at Work Regulations, including the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992, Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. They all emphasise the safety aspects of electricity at work and are legal requirements. PAT can assist in ensuring compliance with the relevant statutes, along with keeping the workplace safe.
Inevitably, electrical appliances will break down and require a replacement. Although new equipment is expected to be supplied in a safe and serviceable state from the manufacturer, it will still require regular testing and unserviceable equipment needs to be removed from the inventory. An up to date PAT register allows the employer to keep an accurate log of all electrical equipment on the premises, plus an assessment of which items are causing regular issues.
Fire inspection officers and Health & Safety inspectors will expect to see PAT records and certificates as part of their regular inspections.
To comply with ISO standards for accreditation, there are a number of important steps that must be completed and maintained. Having regularly updated and maintained PAT records along with other electrical documentation is an essential part of the process.
Peace of mind
Equipment that has been inspected and tested will give both employer and employees the confidence that the tools and appliances used on the premises are safe and in good working order. Regular checks and education on the reasons for these checks can also foster a culture of reporting potential dangers within the workplace, further enhancing the general electrical safety of the workplace.
Portable Appliance Testing is undoubtedly a vital element of safety in the work place, as shown in the reasons above. Although the legislation is not clear on exactly how it must be carried out, it makes sense to have a dedicated, trained member of staff, or to bring in an outside company to carry out the work. In either case, Pat records and valid certificates are a positive and vital part of a company’s day to day running