The Importance of PAT Testing – Even for Small Businesses

We have a good friends who owns a Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) business. To be honest, until recently we have never really thought about it or considered it important, as we only own a few small businesses, and our biggest premises is a small retail shop, which isn’t much bigger than 10ft by 15ft! We always thought that PAT Testing was more for larger, office based companies. That was until our friend gave us a bit of a telling off, and so based on that we got fully checked and also asked him to write a small post for us (and you!) on the importance of having your appliances tested properly.

Why you need to get your equipment tested

If you own a small business, chances are you need PAT Testing. Portable Appliance Testing is the process of examining any electrical appliances and devices to make sure that when they are used, they are safe. The testing can be done by visual examination or more complex testing processes, usually carried out by an electrical professional.

By having your equipment tested regularly, then you reduce the risk of an accident occurring or a hazard developing.

Do I have to do this by Law?

This is a common question I get, and the answer is no. However, the law does state that it:

“electrical equipment is maintained so that danger is prevented and this is required by an employer. We don’t say the methods that should be used, or how often it should be performed. We recommend a risk-based approach, where an employer considers the type of equipment and how and what it is used for. Equipment that is moved around a lot (e.g. a vacuum cleaner), can be important to upkeeping a maintenance process which is safe and helps them meet their legal care duty.”

More can be read at the Health and Safety Executive website.

So you don’t have to do PAT, but you do have to keep your electrical equipment maintained, and one of the best ways to do this is with a regular PAT engineer to come to your site and evaluate your equipments safety in one go.

How often does something fail?

Very often actually, which usually surprises people! We use a red, amber, green system when we test, with green being a good pass, amber meaning something needs fixing or replacing – but should be OK to use, and red meaning the equipment is dangerous and shouldn’t be used until fixed or replaced (depending on the severity of the issue).

We often find red items on a visit, including some classic examples such as a health and safety trainer who was giving presentations on ‘fire safety and prevention’. We found his projector had the wires in the plug the wrong way around – which left him a bit red-faced! But we also get plenty of examples of worn-out equipment like kettles in an office, which have been used that many times that they need replacing as the heating elements are dangerous.

The point is, it doesn’t have to be somebody’s fault, or a major hazard waiting to explode – but it can be finding those small things that could become a higher risk, and remedying it before it does. It is all about prevention, as any good health and safety work should be.

How much does it cost?

Well every firm is different, but as a guide we do PAT Testing Manchester for around 50p per item tested, so an office with 280 items would cost £140. Other firms vary, but they are generally around the same cost. The main thing to ask is, is it worth having that extra reassurance and lowering your risk profile? Also, some insurance companies do insist it is done every year in order to cover your business, as it is again about reducing risk.

What is the process?

If you decide to get your work-place PAT assessed, an engineer will come to site on the day you choose, and begin using visual checks and specialist equipment to assess the safety of your portable appliances. They will score each one, and usually label them after with a label such as this:

PAT Label example

If an item fails, a red ‘warning’ label is usually used, and the equipment moved to a safe area so it cannot be used by accident. Once the entire testing process is complete, you should usually receive a summary report on all items tested and their status. The engineer should also be able to advise on amber or red items what the best actions to take are, and if repairs are possible.

Usually you need to do testing once every year to satisfy an insurance company, but if you want more regular testing it is up to you. Just remember, that PAT assessments can help to reduce the risk of an accident occurring.

Thanks to Dave Manley of SafetyPat.co.uk for this post!