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May 2, 2012

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HSE: Don’t waste money on unnecessary PAT tests

The HSE has issued revised guidance on electrical equipment checks and is urging businesses not to be fooled into paying for testing that is not required.

Unnecessary electrical safety tests cost office-based businesses an estimated £30 million a year, but it’s a myth that every portable electrical appliance in the workplace needs to be tested once a year.

According to the safety watchdog, misleading advice and advertising – often, by companies who offer the testing – is contributing to low-risk businesses, such as offices, shops and hotels, paying unnecessarily for excessive maintenance regimes.

The message from the HSE is that employers need only ensure that electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger – as the law does not stipulate that every item has to be tested, or how often testing needs to be carried out.

While the testing of appliances can contribute to an effective maintenance regime, in a low-risk environment most dangerous defects can be identified simply by checking the devices for obvious signs of damage, such as frayed cables, advises the Executive.

Launching the revised guidance on portable appliance testing (PAT), HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “Businesses are responsible for protecting their employees, but they shouldn’t be wasting their money on unnecessary checks that have no real benefit.

“HSE has always advocated a proportionate, risk-based approach to maintenance. This new guidance is simple and clear to follow.”

The guidance has been revised in response to Professor Löfstedt’s independent report on health and safety legislation, which concluded that the legal requirements concerning maintenance of electrical appliances were “applied too widely and disproportionately”, resulting in costly over-compliance.

Nick Starling, director of general insurance at the Association of British Insurers, added: “Insurers have never required policy-holders to undertake unnecessary portable electrical appliance tests that are not proportionate to the risk.

“We welcome HSE’s guidance, which will help businesses focus on what they do best, free from worries about health and safety myths.”

The guidance, Maintaining portable electrical equipment in low-risk environments, is available at

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8 years ago

Hurrah! Well done HSE!

I hope this gudance will help put an end to the ‘predatory ‘ PAT testing gravy train.

Yes, of course it’s all about balanced risk! A drill, or breaker used daily on-site will need a visual check before every use and PAT valid for 3mths. Wheras, a mobile phone charger in an office would only need visual checks and its PAT valid for 5 yrs. Yes, clearly if something is damaged, replace or don’t use it.

Will we ever read about INDG236 in the tabloids? – Nah!

8 years ago

Insurance companies are not out there to look after us! They are multi £million businesses that want to reduce thier liabilitie as much as possible, less claims = more profit!
They try never to pay out if they can; hence annual PAT etc.
I took one insurer to task when they said that I had no record of maintenance for a simple blocked drain & refused to settle the claim for it to be unblocked. Payment by return of post when I asked for evidence of thier records for thier own buildings drains!

8 years ago

Visual check only on the phone charger. The output is ~10V; you wouldn’t even feel it. And would it still be in service after 5 years?
Same with most IT; who’s got equipment >5 years old? PAT on resale; yes, there’s an obvious duty of care/produc t liability point.
If it don’t move; visual check only.
My wife on the other hand is toxic to laptop chargers, having got through 3 in 4 1/2 years!

8 years ago

HSE deserves the credit for publishing sensible guidance on this issue16 years ago, well before Lofstedt. But guidance on its own is clearly not enough. The problem with portable appliance testing is that there are too few inspectors in HSE and Local Authorities so the low risk businesses never got a vist from an inspector to advise them. I don’t understand why Trading Standards have never prosecuted for mis-selling PAT.

8 years ago

Why annual PAT? did someone say referral fee?
Mr electrician to insurance company
“If you make annual PAT testing a mandatory policy requirement I’ll get loads of work, I’ll earn loads of cash so can give you a bung of £££”.

Mr Insurance company to electrician
“costs me nowt but I’ll get a wedge…done mate” (and so is the poor policy holder!!)

Most folk when asked say annual PAT testing is a requirement of their insurance policy.

8 years ago

To be fair to the HSE this new guidance isnt massively different from the previous guidance.

Essentially the belief that it is a legal requirement to PAT every item was created by dodgy companies making upwards of £1.50 per item on unneccessary testing. I receive a couple of the sales calls per month that quote me regulations, so they get both barrels.

8 years ago

Hurrah! Why did it take so long HSE?

Can’t give the HSE too much credit, after all, it was prompted by Prof Lofstedt’s report. Still, well over due and something which I have argued for a long time.

8 years ago


Thanks for the info, I assumed the PAT guidance was a recent HSE document. If it has been around so long then I’m amazed that no one has talen any notice of it. I don’t subscribe to the lack of inspections to publicise the PAT issues is a valid excuse. These practices have been on going for years…the HSE have other mediums at their disposal to advise and educate.

I agree that Trading Standards should have been more proactive, but then they probably were unaware of the issues.



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