Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use. Most electrical safety defects can be found by visual examination but some types of defect can only be found by testing. However, it is essential to understand that visual examination is an essential part of the process because some types of electrical safety defect cannot be detected by testing alone.
Where a landlord provides an electrical appliance as part of a tenancy, the law expects the appliance to be maintained in a safe condition that will not cause harm to the tenant. Failure to do so could lead to the landlord being sued for negligence. Portable appliance testing is always best practice for landlords but it is not a legal requirement.
A portable appliance is an item that can be moved and usually unplugged from a power supply. This does not mean it is light enough to be picked up by hand, so a portable appliance can be something as small as a kettle or as big as a free-standing fridge.
There are a number of points to consider with visual inspections such as:
- fraying, cuts or heavy scuffing to the lead
- damage to the plug such as bent pins
- tape applied to the lead to join leads together
- Visible wires where the lead joins the plug
- loose parts or screws
- signs of overheating, such as burn marks or staining on the plug
- equipment being stored in dusty or wet environments
- cables trapped under furniture or in floor boxes
Formal visual inspections and testing by a competent person would be required at appropriate intervals, depending upon the type of equipment and the environment in which it is used.
Private landlords are responsible to ensure all electrical appliances are safe at the start of every tenancy. Therefore it is vital to ensure all appliances continue to be safe to use throughout the tenancy. A testing regime is therefore essential.