First of all what is PAT testing? PAT stands for Portable Appliance Testing and the term describes the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use. Many electrical defects can be found on visual inspection, however, some types of faults can only be detected with testing.
So is it law we PAT test on a yearly basis? Well the short answer is NO. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 requires that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. The regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently.
When considering the best approach for your village hall or community building you will want to consider the type of equipment you have and how often it is used by trustees, volunteers and the general public. For example most halls will have a kettle, fridge, maybe an electric floor cleaner, dishwasher and maybe some IT equipment. You will of course want to ensure this equipment is safe to use for everyone, so having a process in place where items are checked visually on a regular basis (weekly/monthly) would be recommended.
Also check your insurance document and lease document (if you have one) it may be a requirement that a yearly PAT test is carried out throughout your building.
There is no legal requirement to label equipment that has been tested, nor is there a requirement to keep records of this activity. However, a record (and labelling) can be a useful management tool for monitoring and reviewing the processes you have put in place. Equally labelling equipment reassures users and volunteers using your facility that the equipment has been checked.
Do you need a qualified electrician to carry out the work? The HSE website states the person doing the testing work needs to be competent to do it. In many low risk environments, a sensible competent member of staff/volunteer/trustee can undertake the visual inspection if they have been given enough training and knowledge.
However, when undertaking a combined inspection and testing a greater level of knowledge and experience is needed and the person will need:
- The right equipment to do the tests
- The ability to use this test equipment properly
- The ability to properly understand the test results
The HSE provide some excellent advice and guidance on their website including this document on low risk environments and I would recommend all management committees take a look at the advice and review the policies they have in place on a regular basis.