PAT Testing, or Portable Appliance Testing, is a way to ensure that members of the public or your employees won’t sustain damage or injury when using portable electrical appliances. Overall, a PAT test ensures an appliance is safe, which is the only legal requirement for electrical equipment. PAT testing isn’t the only way to prove that the equipment complies with the applicable electrical safety regulations. But, it is probably the easiest and most efficient way. So, a suitable inspection checks for damage, wiring and earthing problems. And, prevents electric shock, electrical fires and explosions, and ensures the appliance operates correctly.
The cost of PAT testing is very reasonable too, between £1 and £2 per appliance or less if there are many items to test. So, there’s no excuse for employers not to have it done. It’s not only places of work that need PAT testing. Rental properties and hire equipment need an inspection too. The qualified electrician will then test all the portable appliances on the premises, and produce a report stating the serial number of each appliance and its test results. Additionally, he will stick a label to each plug, stating that the appliance passed the test and on which date.
You might think that all a PAT tester does is to check the earthing on a plug. But, you’d be wrong. Qualified testers initially visually check the equipment. If they see any signs of damage or obvious electric scorch marks, the tester will add this observation to the report.
How much does PAT testing cost?
How much a PAT certificate costs will depend on a few factors:
- The environment in which you use the appliance.
- How many appliances need checking.
Although there’s often other work involved with testing, such as simple repairs like changing fuses or simple plug rewiring work, this doesn’t usually affect the price of testing. Mostly, testers do this work free of charge or ask you to pay a nominal sum. If there are major repairs, then you will be charged at a day rate, independently of the PAT test. The main varying factor will be the number of appliances to test.
- Up to 50 appliances, will be about £2 per item and will take about 1 to 2 hours.
- From 50 to 100 appliances, prices will be about £1 per item and take between 2 and 4 hours.
- Over 100 items but below 250, prices will be about 80p per item and take 3 or more hours depending on the number of appliances.
- From 250 to 500 items, prices discount further to about 75p per item.
However, there will probably be a minimum charge. Also, you might get even better scales of charges if you sign up for an ongoing and regular contract. Furthermore, there will usually be a nominal fee to cover the travelling distance to and from your premises. Finally, be aware that each inspector has their own charges depending on the appliance category and the environment where they’re used.
In this article, you will learn:
- How much PAT testing costs.
- The methods and testing equipment that electricians use to conduct tests.
- Criteria for passing the test.
- Landlords’ PAT testing duties.
- Top tips when hiring an electrician.
What does an inspection involve?
First and foremost, you must have a competent person doing the test. This means an electrician with recognised qualifications or a competent person who has passed a specialised electrical safety course. A tester will use an ohmmeter to check resistance and an ammeter to check electrical current. Alternatively, a PAT testing instrument incorporates all the different meters in one unit. A simple form of tester just gives a PASS/FAIL indication, whereas an advanced instrument displays more information that might point to the cause of the failure.
The tester inspects the appliance, plug and cable for signs of damage. The HSE states that this process will find the majority of electrical faults.
Next, unless it’s a moulded and sealed plug, open it and check the condition of wiring, terminals and fuse.
An earth test instrument checks the resistance of the earth connection. If this is less than 1 ohm, it proves there is a connection to the earth.
This measures the resistance of the earth circuit of an extension lead or appliance cord which doesn’t exceed 1 ohm.
This measures the leakage current of any exposed metal at a rated voltage. The tested values must not exceed 5mA for Class 1 appliances (single insulated wiring needing a separate earth connection) or 1mA for Class 2 appliances (double insulated wiring not needing a separate earth connection).
This checks the correct wiring of the appliance’s plug. That is, live and neutral wires connect to the appropriate terminals.
How to pass a PAT test
There are a few simple rules to ensure your equipment passes every time.
- Keep the equipment maintained.
- Make sure it’s clean.
- Use a competent person to do any repairs.
- Prevent any leads from becoming damaged. For example, don’t trail leads and don’t trap them in closed doors.
The PAT tester will record passes, faults, and equipment serial numbers for your records. Each item will also have a PASS or FAIL label so you know at a glance the status of the equipment. After the tests, the electrician will give your company a ‘certificate of testing’ for each item to prove everything has been checked. Although the law doesn’t require labels or certificate, they prove that the employer did everything in their power to comply.
There are two types of testing, that probably suit different kinds of business. The competent person can test and produce a certificate for each item manually. This is great if you are small and only have a few appliances. However, any medium or large company will possible have hundreds of separate items and each one needs a certificate.
A standard certificate also relies on using paper, which can become dirty and torn. And the tester’s handwriting, may not always be legible. For this reason, paper certificates have limited use. Computerised testing is something else entirely.
Many companies list their assets using a scannable barcode tag and these can be used in conjunction with a computerised PAT testing instrument. The software lists all items according to their asset tag, together with the test results. You can view these certificates on any electronic device, and keep them on the company server. They’ll then provide the basis of a company asset tracking inventory as well as a planned maintenance programme.
What Landlords need to know
It’s not only businesses that need to comply with the law. Landlords of rental properties have an added responsibility to ensure their properties are electrically safe for tenants. To meet their obligations, not only do they need an electrician to check the property for electrical safety, and to issue an electrical safety condition report (EICR). But also, they need any portable appliances that come with the property to be proved safe. The best way to do this is to have a professional electrician carry out PAT testing on appliances included in the tenancy. You can find a suitably qualified electrician using the search tool on the ‘Electrical Safety First’ website.
The PAT inspection will give the landlord or their letting agent a report that lists the following:
- A list of each appliance, its type, name, description and location.
- Test results for each appliance.
- A list of failed appliances together with the reasons for failure.
- A PASS or FAIL label on each appliance, with inspection date, date of next test and tester’s signature.
Although you aren’t legally obliged to have a regular PAT test on your appliances, the report proves that you have done your best to comply and that everything was safe on the inspection day.
Unfurnished and furnished lets
A typical unfurnished let will probably have a fridge and washing machine as the only portable appliances, but will most likely have none at all. However, a furnished let (including holiday accommodation) will have a full range of appliances such as:
- Microwave oven.
- Television, DVD and CD players.
- Table lamps.
- Portable heaters.
- Hair drier.
- Washing machine and drier.
We’ve already talked about how much a PAT inspection will cost elsewhere in this article, but the total cost will depend on how many appliances you own.
Does my electrician require any certification?
You don’t actually need an electrician to inspect your appliances. However, any person who is responsible for inspecting portable appliances and producing the reports must be competent to carry out the tests. This means you can use a qualified electrician if you want to. Alternatively, use someone in your company who has successfully passed a specialist electrical health and safety PAT testing course. They must be able to understand electricity, know how to use the testing equipment and how to interpret the results. The City and Guilds Electrical Equipment Maintenance and Testing (2377) course offers a recognised qualification for qualified electricians to learn about PAT testing and inspection. City and Guilds also offer a three–day course for non–electricians that includes a foundation in the subject.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) quotes the Electricity at Work regulations 1989 when talking about electrical safety. These regulations only specify that you must keep all electrical equipment in a safe condition. However, they don’t specify what you have to do, who can do it, or how often it must be done. The frequency of inspection depends on its category and the working environment. For example, a bedside lamp in a hotel bedroom doesn’t need to be inspected as often as a power drill used on a building site. Guidance notes produced by the HSE help determine the inspection frequency.
History of PAT testing
PAT testing and inspection is the name given to routine electrical checking of portable appliances in the UK, and the Republic of Ireland. It’s also used in Australia, and New Zealand, but commonly known there as ‘Test and Tag’.
Its origins lie in the 1960s when electrical equipment on UK Government property had a 3 monthly check-in high–risk zones and a 6 monthly check-in low–risk zones. As well as an inventory, equipment had a label marking it as ‘PASSED’, ‘TESTED FOR ELECTRICAL SAFETY’ and ‘DO NOT USE AFTER…’.The original testing and inspection was part of an ongoing planned maintenance regime. It wasn’t until the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Electricity at Work Act 1989, that PAT testing became more formal and evolved into what we have today.
PAT Safety Checklist – Top Tips
Although there’s no requirement to keep your portable appliances checked in your own home, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea. After all, you must keep yourself and family safe. So here are a few things to look out for, to make your home a safer place.
- Use an Excel spreadsheet to record all your appliances and plugs and give each one a number.
- Use the appliance record to plan maintenance and an inspection programme.
- Label all those appliances you’ve had tested.
- Double–check that the fuses in each plug are the correct ones for the appliance. Not every electrician checks them.
- Ask the electrician if they have checked every appliance and plug, once only.
Pat Testing Cost FAQ
Can you do PAT testing yourself
Yes. As long as the person has the appropriate knowledge and is competent. It’s a good idea to attend and pass a PAT testing training course, so you know what to do and how to use the testing instruments properly.
How many items can you PAT test in a day
An experienced PAT tester with the appropriate qualifications should be able to test about 150 items per day in an industrial setting and about 300 items in an office environment.
How frequently should electrical appliances be PAT tested?
Although there aren’t any legal requirements for frequency of testing. The HSE publish acceptable guidelines. In offices, shops, hotels and pubs, you should test Class 1 stationary and IT equipment approximately every 4 years. Whereas, you should test portable equipment and extension leads every 2 years. Finally, test handheld appliances every year. These frequencies will vary depending on the environment in which you use the appliances.
Does new equipment need to be tested?
Any new equipment you buy shouldn’t need a PAT test. However, you should visually inspect the item for any damage.
Find a qualified Electrician
If you have any items that need an inspection, contact a local electrician. Just complete the form on this page and you’ll receive 2 or 3 quotes giving you a PAT testing cost for your equipment.