A quick test for you… If you work in a low-risk environment like an office or shop, do you need to get your portable electrical appliances tested? The answer is no, there’s no mandatory requirement on testing portable appliances. However, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that you periodically carry out PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) for any equipment that’s earthed and not double insulated. More on that later.
What the law says…
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 simply require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. The Regulations, however, fall short of specifying what you need to do, or how frequently.
In short, the law just asks you to apply sensible practical safety precautions. So if you’re an employer or self-employed it’s your job to ensure that all electrical equipment are safe, fit for purpose and maintained in a good order.
What are portable electrical or moveable equipment exactly? Below is the definition, provided by the HSE. As you can see it’s pretty all-encompassing. • Electrical equipment that can be easily moved around, such as kettles, vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, portable heaters, fans, desk lamps, some TVs, radios, some small electric cookers, PC projectors, small appliances such as irons, hair dryers and kitchen equipment including food mixers, toasters etc. • Larger items that could be moved (but only rarely), eg, water chillers, fridges, microwaves, photocopiers, vending machines, washing machines, electric cookers, fax machines, desktop computers, electric beds etc are considered to be movable items. • Hand-held items, such as hairdryers, that do not have a plug but have been wired in (or fixed) are still considered to be portable appliances, but large electrical items, such as water boilers that are wired in, are not portable appliances as they are not designed to be moved and would come under the scope of fixed installation maintenance. • Mobile phone and other battery-charging equipment that is plugged into the mains (but the phones themselves and any other battery-operated equipment would not be included). • Extension leads, multi-way adaptors and connection leads.
So what checks do you need to make? The HSE recommends inspecting your electrical equipment before each use including: • Checking the leads for fraying or loose connections • Damage to the plugs, or burn marks which might indicate overheating • Evidence of trapped cables (eg, underneath office furniture) You also need to ensure that the electrical equipment is maintained and used correctly: • Avoiding storing the appliance in dusty or damp environments • Using the equipment in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
When is Portable Appliance testing needed?
Equipment that is earthed and not double insulated should have portable appliance test (including leads) at initial intervals, recommends the HSE. This could be between one and five years, depending on the type of equipment. For guidance on how often to check appliances, with a table of interval times, check out the link to HSE’s downloadable leaflet at the end of this blog post.
So what’s the difference between earthed and double insulated equipment? Earthed equipment (Class I equipment) For safety it has an earth connection. If there is a fault within the equipment there is a possibility that the outside of the equipment could cause an electric shock if the earth connection is not there. Portable appliance test: recommended to ensure the earth connection is sound. Double insulated equipment (Class II equipment) This includes within the construction of the equipment extra insulation to prevent accidental contact with live parts, even if there is a fault. Class II equipment does not need an earth connection to maintain safety. Portable appliance test: not needed. However you should ensure that user checks and visual inspections are carried out as the integrity of the equipment casing is a key safety feature. Any questions?
For further guidance, the first port of call is HSE’s free downloadable leaflet Maintaining portable electric equipment in low-risk environments, which explains the ins and outs of inspecting, checking and testing appliances as well as initial intervals for checking portable electrical equipment.
There’s also useful advice from The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in its factsheet Portable Appliance Testing – PAT Testing. For all health & safety questions call Harrier UK Ltd on 01332 460703 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org