Portable appliances are used everywhere from small offices to sprawling construction sites – but there are widespread misconceptions about their maintenance.

So when it comes to Portable Appliance Testing (PAT), what’s the right routine? We clear up the nine common myths that could be costing you. 

1. Appliance requirements

It’s not necessary to test every appliance. Battery operated, extra low voltage (less than 50V ac) or double insulated equipment doesn’t require PAT testing.

2. Testing frequency

According to the HSE, inspection frequency depends upon the type of equipment and the environment it’s used in.

They recommend that portable equipment is visually inspected either every six months or up to every four years, depending on the type of equipment. Equipment that is not double insulated should have a PAT test either after one or up to five years.

Power tools on a construction site, however, may require testing as frequently as monthly and equipment used in industrial environments may require 6-12 monthly testing.

3. Competent testers   

What the law does not require, is the person carrying out a PAT test be someone qualified to carry out appliance repairs, such as an electrician. It is important, however, that the tester has the right equipment and enough knowledge to undertake the test and understand and interpret the results.

It is the employer’s duty to make sure the tester is competent.

4. Testing the tester

Often, people forget that PAT testing equipment itself also needs maintaining. If it is your own PAT testing equipment, it should be calibrated on an annual basis by a competent person.

5. Labelling requirements

The use of PAT testing labels on each piece of equipment tested is not a legal requirement, however it is advisable for effective management of the maintenance process.

6. New equipment

If you’ve bought brand new electrical equipment, it doesn’t need PAT testing for the first two years – unless, of course, your visual checks flag any concerns. The only exception would be portable electrical equipment used on construction sites.

7. PAT testing vs. visual checks

A common misconception is that visual checks aren’t needed if you’re up to date with your PAT testing. That’s not right. Visual checks play an important role in the day-to-day maintenance of your electrical appliances and employees should be encouraged to give any items a once over before putting them to use.

8. Risk assessments

‘If you stick to regular PAT testing, you don’t need to risk assess your electrical equipment.’ Wrong. Risk assessments exist to identify risks – and subsequently remove, reduce or control them, and they’re absolutely needed alongside PAT tests.

9. Employee equipment

Just because the electrical equipment doesn’t belong to the business, it doesn’t mean you can turn a blind eye. If you let employees bring their own items (such as an electric heater, kettle or fan) into your workplace, you may need to include them in your maintenance plans.