Fire Risk Assessment

What is this?

Portable Appliance Testing is the name commonly used to describe the periodic inspection and testing of electrical appliances within a holiday property. A better name might be Electrical Appliance Safety Checks, but generally it is known as PAT testing. This relates to things like kettles, televisions, vacuum cleaners, lamps and other electrical appliances. It must not be confused with the Fixed Wiring Inspection which relates to the wiring, fuse boxes and switches which are part of your property and is a separate inspection. PAT testing should be supplemented by Maintaining Electrical Safety Between Bookings

PAT testing holiday cottage

Why does it need to be done?

Over time, electrical appliances deteriorate through normal use or get accidentally damaged making them unsafe. Good examples of deterioration are damaged plugs, cracked casings, loose cables, frayed flexes, the wrong size fuses and bodged DIY repairs. So there needs to be a regular inspection of appliances to make sure they are maintained in a safe condition. Overheating plugs and damaged appliances are also a major cause of fires, so PAT testing is an important way of reducing fire risk.

Damaged adaptor

Who carries this out?

Contrary to popular belief, PAT testing need not be carried out by a qualified electrician. PAT testing must be carried out by a "Competent Person". This could be a fully qualified Electrician or a "Test Engineer" who has been trained to just carry out PAT testing. For example, by completing the City and Guilds 2377 Course. When choosing a suitable contractor this difference in qualifications should be considered. If the Fixed Wiring Inspection is also due then it would be easier to get a suitably qualified Electrician to do both jobs at the same time.

Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous people out there who in a bid to speed up the process and make easy money do not carry out the tests properly. In the industry they are known as "sticker jockeys" and should be avoided.

How often does it need to be done?

This depends on the type of appliances within your property, the type of use they get and how likely people are to report damage. For example, a hand-held appliance like a hair-dryer is much more likely to get damaged than say a washing machine which just sits in one place and never moves. Consequently, hand-held appliances should be given more attention and inspected more frequently perhaps every six months.

Most PAT testing contractors like to visit once a year to holiday cottages. Arguably, if you are only letting for say 15 or 20 weeks a year and the property is empty for the rest of the time then reducing to once every two years could be acceptable provided a lot of faults aren't being found. The IET Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment gives guidelines for the initial frequency of tests but also allows the Test Engineer the discretion to reduce or increase the period between tests depending on how many faults are occurring.

What do they do?

PAT testing in a holiday cottage must be carried out in line with the IET 4th Edition Code of Practice, but for the purpose of a simple explanation can really be broken down into four stages:

Stage1: Find all the electrical appliances within the property that need testing. This might seem obvious, but on a practical level the Test Engineer will need to look through all the cupboards and drawers to find all those tucked away hair-dryers, food blenders and any other appliances fitted with a 13A plug.

Stage 2: Make a list of all the appliances that need testing, what they are, what Class they are (e.g. Class 1, or Class 2), how often they need to be inspected and tested and whereabouts they are located within the property.

Stage 3: Visually inspect every appliance for signs of damage. This involves checking all the casings and flexes for damage. Each plug should be opened up, terminal screws checked for tightness, cable clamp checked for tightness and the fuse checked to ensure it is the right rating to protect the flex. The appliance's rating plate will also need to be checked to ensure it is suitable for UK use.

Stage 4: Actually test the appliances using a PAT testing meter to ensure they are safe, record the results and then label them to show that they are Passed or Failed. Any failures would be reported to the property owner so that replacements can be purchased or repairs made.

In our experience

The vast majority of failures will be picked up by the visual inspection. It is much less common for appliances to fail when the tests are carried out on the PAT test meter, but some do which is why both Inspection and Testing need to be done.

Inspection and Test Examples

PAT testing - lamp

PAT - plug earth

PAT rewired plug

Kewtech KT71 PAT test meter

There are rare examples, where an appliance could pass on the meter, but fail the visual inspection such as the dangerous hybrid lamp below. This started life as a Class 2 appliance, then a DIY repair resulted in it being fitted with a Class 1 lampholder which requires an earth. If this lamp was tested on a Class 2 test on the meter, it would pass.

Dangerous hybrid lamp

A note about plug types

All 13 Amp plugs in holiday cottages should meet BS1363 (August 1984) revision and have insulation around the two shortest pins. Believe it or not there are still some older plugs about that have solid brass pins and these should always be replaced.

Old BS1363 plug

Keep the records

Each time PAT testing is carried out, a record should be kept in your file. Most testers provide a detailed report of the tests and the results they have recorded. Stickers on the appliances will reassure your guests that they have been tested.

PAT test records

You can view PDF examples of PAT testing records by clicking here or clicking here

Do new appliances need testing right away?

When an appliance is new it should be safe to use and if there was a problem within say the first year then provided you have a receipt you should be covered. The new item will get tested at the next round of PAT testing and will enter the testing regime at that point.

Save some money on PAT testing!

Some property owners seem to be hoarders and have a collection of old and unused appliances lurking in the back of stair cupboards or similar places. If visitors have access to them they have to be tested. Since PAT testing is usually charged per item, money can be saved by removing any unnecessary appliances from the property.

Testing of Microwave ovens

As well as being tested for electrical safety, Microwave ovens are often checked during PAT testing to ensure they are not leaking dangerous levels of microwave radiation to the outside and that the door interlock shuts down the oven when the door is opened. Most PAT test operatives do this test at the same time if they are following the 3rd Edition IEE Code of Practice. However, Microwave Leakage Tests have been removed from the 4th Edition Code of Practice.

Microwave leakage test