Why Do We Need PAT Testing?

Plug and SocketIt’s a common question throughout the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia: why do we need portable appliance testing, otherwise known as PAT Testing? We know the law requires an employer to ensure that all their electrical equipment is regularly maintained to prevent hazards.

The routine testing is conducted to ensure the safety of the electronic equipment. Through normal wear and tear, the various parts of an electrical appliance can become unsafe and hazardous to use. It is for this reason that the governments have determined the necessity of periodic testing, but what is the real chance of harm? The truth of the matter is, untested portable appliances can pose a definite risk of harm in the workplace or school.

Consider, for example, your standard commercial portable vacuum cleaner. The cord can be run over a dozen times in a week, causing damage to the electrical lead. This damage can then lead to a fire hazard while the vacuum is plugged in or, even worse, an electrocution hazard. Employees regularly handle the vacuum cleaner’s cord in the course of using the vacuum, so it is not at all unreasonable to expect that a damaged electrical lead could cause a shock injury to the user.

Many other appliances can suffer similar damage from careless use, but sometimes the damage can occur due to a manufacturer’s defect. For example, electrical leads can be insecurely connected to the device and pull loose from the device even under normal usage. Only through regular testing and maintenance can these defects be identified and either repaired or the appliance taken out of service or replaced.

Time and decay can also cause problems with electrical equipment. Depending on the environment, the plastic housing covering AC adapters can become brittle and fall apart, leaving the innards exposed and leading to an electrical shock or other hazards when the user tries to plug in the device. This can happen because of normal wear and tear or simply because some devices undergo strenuous use from employees.

The most important reason for PAT testing is to ensure accidents do not happen that could otherwise be avoided. When an electrical appliance becomes defective or otherwise faulty, there is an increased likelihood of someone being injured because of that faulty device. For this reason, the government advises specific intervals during which all portable appliances must be tested, and pass the test to remain in service.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to look after the safety of your employees. One part of that is making sure all of your equipment is regularly tested to ensure it remains safe for continued use, or taken out of service and replaced if faults are found that could lead to electrical or fire hazards.