What is PAT testing used for?

PAT stands for portable appliance testing. It’s a routine process involving testing electrical equipment and appliances through visual inspection and devices known as PAT testers.

In Australia, the more common term for this process is ‘Test and Tag’.

Only qualified technicians can carry out PAT tests. The process usually involves:

  • A visual inspection of the appliance to check for damage or wear,
  • A series of electrical tests to affirm the appliance’s safe, efficient operation.

In Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, PAT testing is a legal requirement. We’ll dive deeper into the specific rules and regulations later in this article.

For now, let’s talk about why we PAT test.

What is PAT testing used for, and why is it important?

The reason behind PAT testing is simple—it significantly reduces the risk of electrical accidents. The process is critical in any environment where this risk is high, including schools, offices, hospitals, and other public buildings.

But it’s not just about safety. If your business relies on electrical equipment, regular testing will also minimise the risk of failure and downtime, which can cost thousands.

Many appliances require regular PAT testing, including:

  • Household or office appliances,
  • Extension cords,
  • Power tools,
  • Electrical machinery.

PAT testing is an excellent example of a proactive safety measure. The process identifies warning signs such as frayed cables or cracked plugs, stopping potential problems in their tracks.

How to perform a PAT test

If you need a PAT test, there are two ways to go about it—hiring an external company or arranging a competent person to perform the test in-house. Either way, the person performing the test must be highly trained in PAT testing, including its related rules and regulations.

The process typically begins with a user check, which involves looking for potential danger signs and reporting any faults to a supervisor. There’s no need to record the results of a user check unless defects are evident.

Next is the formal visual inspection, where a competent person checks cables, plugs, and outlets for obvious damage signs. This step is responsible for identifying approximately 90% of electrical faults according to the UK’s Health & Safety Executive.

The competent person will then perform specific checks depending on the appliance’s electrical Class, type, and risk levels using a PAT testing device. For example, leakage current tests are best for modern power tools, since the DC voltage used in insulation resistance tests will not activate their electromagnetic switches.

Other test types include:

  • Earth continuity tests,
  • Polarity checks,
  • Screen tests,
  • RCD trip time tests,
  • Bond tests,
  • Type tests.

PAT testing laws

PAT testing rules and regulations depend vary by locality. In Australia, the safety standard AS/NZS 3760:2022 governs testing and tagging processes. This standard specifies the skills and experience necessary to perform PAT testing.

In industries including construction, mining, and demolition, appliance testing is mandatory every three months in Australia. For other businesses, the process is recommended but not a legal requirement.

We suggest checking all portable appliances regularly to ensure safe working conditions and keep your business’s electronic equipment in working order.

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