The Law regarding PAT Testing

Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal requirement to have the electrical equipment in either the workplace or, in the case of any landlord or company-supplied electrical equipment in rented accommodation or residential care homes etc., PAT Tested*. However, as we shall see, it is indeed a legal requirement that such electrical equipment, and in particular the items being used in the workplace are, in simple terms, 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used' - at all times. It is not the inspection and testing that is the legal requirement, but the fact that the electrical equipment, at all times, must be 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used'. And the penalties for non-compliance can be severe: in certain cases, unlimited fines and imprisonment, not to mention the harm done to someone in the event of a serious electric shock, or the damage done to property in the case of a fire (more than 2,500 people are either killed or injured as a result of electrical fires in the UK every year, and more than thirty people are directly killed by electric shock).

The only way that we can determine whether electrical equipment is 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used' (the legal requirement), is if it is routinely, formally visually-inspected and instrument-tested ('PAT Tested'). Therefore, PAT Testing is implicit in the need to ensure that such equipment, at the time of the inspection and testing at least, is indeed 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used'. Look across the room now at a piece of electrical equipment, perhaps a computer, water cooler, toaster, fridge, etc. Can you tell if its earth wire is internally in contact with the exposed metal work? How good is the insulation? What state are the wires inside the plug? Are the live and neutral wires reversed at either the plug end or inside the Glossary Link appliance? (the appliance would still function with 'reversed polarity', but it is potentially very dangerous). Is that slight shock that you and your colleagues get from that fridge several times a week really just static? Without formal visual inspection and testing, how can we know if equipment is safe, whether it needs to be repaired or disposed of, or otherwise appropriately dealt with? In other words, whether it is compliant with the following legislation.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The purpose of this act is to prevent death or injury from any electrical cause as a result of, or in connection with, work activities. The Act covers all electrical equipment, from simple battery-powered torches up to 400,000 Volt power lines!

Very importantly, with reference to electrical systems in the workplace, Regulation 4(2) of this Act states quite clearly:

"As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger."

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

This Act puts a duty of care upon both employer and employee to ensure the safety of all persons at the workplace, including the self-employed.

Specifically, Section 2(1) of the Act puts on employers a general duty of care to its employees:

"It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

Regulation 4(1) of this act states:

"Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided."

Regulation 4(3) requires that:

"Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is used only for operations for which, and under conditions for which, it is suitable."

Regulation 5(1) states:

"Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair."

 

NB. 'Efficient' is defined as how the condition of the equipment might affect health and safety; it is not concerned with productivity.

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994

This Act, which came into force on 9 January, 1995 and operates as secondary legislation to the Consumer Protection Act 1987, is mostly concerned with electrical equipment provided by 'suppliers'. All suppliers of electrical goods must ensure that the goods that they supply are safe so that there is no risk to 'people, animals, or property'. Under both of these Acts, landlords and owners of residential care homes, etc. that provide electrical equipment for use by the tenants or residents in the 'course of business', are liable as 'suppliers'. The legislation covers all mains voltage equipment, including washing machines, fridges, cookers, kettles, toasters, electric blankets, etc. (but, under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, does not apply to items attached to 'land', for example, the fixed electrical wiring and built-in appliances such as central heating systems). There are several other important aspects to The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 act which make for interesting reading, in particular the use of the 'CE' safety mark, and the provision of instruction booklets to the tenants or residents. However, these issues are considered out of the scope of PAT Testing, and so are not discussed here.

To summarize: landlords and owners of residential care homes, etc., that provide electrical equipment for use by the tenants or residents as part of the tenancy must, by law, ensure that the equipment is, in simple terms, 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used' (at all times). It is very important that landlords and residential care home owners have any electrical equipment that they supply periodically PAT Tested, typically on an annual basis. Also note that, in the case of residential care homes, the electrical equipment in use by members of staff, in the kitchen or in an office for example, is further covered by other legislation outlined elsewhere on this page, namely that, by law, electrical equipment used in the workplace must also be, in simple terms, 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used' (at all times).

Buildings insurance, public performances, market stalls, etc. - testing may be required

More and more now, some insurance companies are refusing to provide cover for businesses and other organisations if they cannot provide evidence of having had their electrical equipment PAT tested. Similarly, many performance venues, including small sites such as church halls, etc., are not allowing public performances unless the performers can demonstrate that their equipment has an up-to-date PAT Testing certificate. If you are planning an event, check in plenty of time whether the owners of the venue have a policy that all performers using their own electrical equipment have an up-to-date PAT Testing certificate; you may not be able to book a PAT Tester in time! Furthermore, some market stalls are also insisting on seeing evidence of PAT Testing. I provide full certification, of course (see 'What's involved when we PAT Test?').


*NB. There is just one exception to this: Regulation 6 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires that equipment has to be 'inspected' in work situations where the safety of the equipment depends specifically on the installation conditions, and, in particular, where conditions are liable to lead to deterioration. This is a very specific requirement, for a very specific situation, and yet even here, there is no mention of the word 'testing'.


Telephone: 0843 289 3749                        Info@PAT2377.co.uk