Wednesday, 15th June, 2016
Figures show that around 25% of electrical accidents involve the use of portable equipment, and as a result, employers should take a risk-based approach to acting out their duty of care, as dictated by the Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989.
Employers need to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that their employees and any contractors visiting their site are not at any risk from the use of portable electrical equipment. Some defects in portable electrical equipment can be detected simply by a visual inspection, but others cannot be identified without proper testing of the appliance in question, and therefore, a systematic and routine programme of testing and inspection is required. This will ensure that all items are suitably inspected, tested and maintained.
What is defined as a portable appliance?
This is essentially anything that is not fixed to the floor or attached to buildings and has a regular three-pin plug on it. This includes large equipment that is technically portable, but is never moved, ie. a fridge freezer in the canteen, and such equipment just needs to be tested less frequently.
How regularly do I need to test this equipment?
The testing frequency will very much depend on the risk factor, and this is open to the employer to decide. If a tool is used almost constantly on a construction site or on a factory floor for maintenance purposes, it carries a high risk factor; ie. it is open to damage and deterioration. Therefore, it should be tested regularly, perhaps on a six-monthly basis. If the item is a lamp on a desk in a manager’s office then there is very little risk and this can be tested less frequently. New equipment should be supplied as safe to use and therefore doesn’t initially need testing, but it is always wise to carry out a visual inspection of new equipment and then add it to your roster of items to be tested on a suitable frequency from that point onwards.
Essentially, if you carry out a short risk assessment on each item on your site, you can establish a testing frequency accordingly and demonstrate how you have assessed this.
Who can carry out this testing?
An employer is able to judge who is ‘competent’ to carry out the testing, but this needs to be someone who has sufficient knowledge and training to:
* Carry out a visual inspection
* Use the correct equipment to test all appliances
* Understand results and record them
* Be able to report findings to management
* Have the authority to isolate defective items found upon testing and take them out of use
* Be able to carry out corrective actions on defective items
In many organisations there is no such single person available and hence, it is common to outsource PAT Testing to an external company, who have trained personnel able to identify all the equipment on site that needs testing and to carry out the programme for you. This immediately creates peace of mind that ‘competent’ persons are ensuring you are complying with your duty of care as an employer.
What records do I need to keep?
There are no legal requirements to maintain records, but having each individual item labelled and accompanying records maintained and available is the recommended approach. An external company carrying out the testing for you will provide this service in their price. This promotes good practice and a professional approach, allows the testing programme to be picked up easily at each point of the schedule and is good for insurance purposes and safety audits.
For more information on PAT Testing, please click here.Back to News