Is PAT Testing a Legal Requirement?

Portable appliance testing or ‘PAT’ testing as it is more commonly known, is a workplace process relating to safety. It involves regular checks on electrical appliances to make sure that they are safe to use. Such testing usually includes both a visual inspection as well as testing equipment. A frequent question often asked is whether there is a legal requirement to undertake PAT testing.


A legal requirement?

When it comes to PAT testing, there is no legislation in place that explicitly says that it has to be carried out. Instead, employers have a responsibility for ensuring the safety of those who work for them. Rather than state a need for PAT testing the Government has used legislation to specify that employees and others safe should not be in danger when using electrical equipment. It has left it up to employers as to how they can do this.

While there is legislation in place it is silent when it comes to the need for PAT testing. That said businesses need to be able to show that they are doing everything they can to make sure that electrical equipment is safe and properly maintained. One way in which they can demonstrate this is by undertaking PAT testing.

Pat Test Legislation

While there might be no legal requirement that explicitly states that a need for PAT testing, safety in the workplace is paramount. Companies have a legal duty that all those who work for them or are visiting their place of work can do so safely. In recent years legislation about safety in the workplace has been set by a variety of different rules and regulations. When it comes to electrical safety, the first piece of legislation that was introduced and still continues today is the – Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 -.

The 1974 Act places a duty on both employers and employees to make sure that everyone in the workplace has a safe working environment. This is not just employees, it also includes visitors as well as and contractors.

With the need to keep those using electrical equipment safe there have been a range of legislative acts introduced on the subject. Including the Health and Safety at Work Regulations, there are four Acts that deal with electrical safety and the need to test electrical equipment.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 –

This set of regulations places a duty on employers to ensure that they have carried out an appropriate assessment of the risk to their employees in the workplace. It also applies to visitors to the workplace as well as contractors who are working on site for example.

– The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 –

Safety in the workplace is important. One way in which employers can do this is to make sure that they take reasonable steps to carry out and maintain their electrical equipment. If an employee uses a piece of electrical equipment, then there should be no danger to them or anyone around them. All of this is set out in the Electricity at Work regulations. Equipment is not limited to just portable electrical equipment. If it is possible to connect any device to an electrical supply then it falls within the scope of the legislation.

– The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 –

This Act deals with the use of equipment in the workplace. It requires the employer to make sure that all work equipment is properly maintained and in a good state of repair. This includes all equipment that workers use not just electrical equipment. It does not cover fixed installations that connect to an electrical supply. Where a fixed installation is involved this comes under the Electricity at Work regulations.

Risk Based Approach

When it comes to safety in the workplace employers will often find it helpful to take a risk-based approach to electrical safety. The legislation is silent on the need for PAT testing. How and what type of testing needs to done is not set out in the legislation. A risk-based approach can help ensure that proper processes are in place thereby ensuring that an appropriate level of testing takes place. It can make it easier to identify when and how often any testing needs to happen.

In a low-risk environment, it does not always have to be the case that PAT testing takes place annually. If the risk is low, then all that might be needed are regular user checks and visual inspections as a good way of maintaining portable electrical equipment.

More Information

If you want to know more about electrical safety in the workplace, then it is worthwhile taking a look at the Health and Safety Executive’s website (, and PAT Test technical guides can be here.

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