Part I: Debunking the myths of school or academy PAT Testing

Portable appliances include things that have a cable and a plug, and are regularly moved or carried, such as kettles, vacuum and floor cleaners, electric drills, extension leads, heaters, fans, and televisions. Also included are items of equipment that can be moved but whose typical usage doesn’t involve movement, such as photocopiers, fax machines and desktop computers.

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is an important part of ensuring your school is a safe environment in which to work and to comply with the basic requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act; however it needn’t be onerous or expensive.

This article debunks some of the ‘myths’ associated with electrical safety compliance. 

Myth #1: All electrical equipment needs testing a couple of times a year.

Wrong.  According to the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 electrical equipment in low-risk environments is required to be maintained at a frequency commensurate with the type of appliance it is, and the nature of the environment in which it is typically used.  Appliances like kettles and vacuum cleaners may need to be checked more frequently simply because they are used more often.

Myth #2: It will take ages to test everything in the school.

This depends on whether you already have a system of checking in place. The main risks associated with faulty electrical equipment, which is not subject to any type of formal inspection, are electric shocks and fire. So it is important to establish a maintenance routine to reduce safety risks.

However it is wrong to assume everything needs to undergo a thorough test every time.

All that is needed to maintain your appliance in the first instance is a simple visual inspection of the equipment by a competent individual. It does NOT require an elaborate and costly system of testing.

By visually checking the cables, plugs and the equipment itself for signs of damage, non-standard cable joints, loose connections, missing screws, or overheating, the electrical risks can be substantially mitigated.

Myth #3: I need an electrician to inspect and test the equipment.

Wrong. With appropriate training, knowledge and common sense PAT maintenance and inspections can be carried out by a competent member of staff to an adequate level of compliance and safety in low-risk school environments.

Myth #4: I need to keep detailed records of inspections and tests

You are not required by law to keep records of your PAT inspections and tests. However, it is essential for schools to have documented evidence of the completion of PAT and it is also useful to have an electrical asset list that normally is produced as a result of testing.  To make the process easier and less time-consuming it makes sense to have a log of when the last inspection was last carried out and what the results.  This may take the form of a sticker on the appliance itself.

In conclusion, PAT testing is a necessary part of Health and Safety compliance in your school. With a little bit of knowledge, training, and common sense, it can be readily incorporated into your school management routine, and carried out by an existing member of staff.

Look out for next week’s blog which will give more detail about the frequency and nature of inspections and tests for specific types of equipment.


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