How to reduce the number of tools failing a PAT test

PAT Test

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that could potentially cause harm or injury must be properly maintained and kept in a safe condition. A PAT test (Portable Appliance Testing), is a term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances, tools and equipment to ensure that they are safe to use. 

Construction sites register as an exceptionally high risk level by business environment, due to the often potentially hazardous nature of the work being done, as well as the frequent use of possibly dangerous equipment. With this in mind, it is essential to keep on top of the safety of electrical tools and appliances to ensure excellent overall site safety and improve productivity. When electrical tools fail it can be damaging to this goal, so it is important to know why they aren’t successful and how to reduce the number of those failing.


What is involved in a maintenance test for tools?

HSE guidelines suggest that employers should take a risk-based approach when it comes to electrical appliance safety - what the appliance is and what it is used for. The regulations don’t specify a PAT test as a legal requirement for this, and recommend visual inspections as a helpful way to identify any issues. Visual examination of tools can be used to detect some problems, but a PAT test allows for formal inspection by a competent person that would ensure any internal or hard to detect issues aren’t missed. 

Usually, after a visual check is performed (checking for frayed wires, the casing around the appliance coming undone, plugs being cracked or damaged) a PAT testing specialist will be able to perform tests that will show if the appliance abides to Health and Safety regulations, such as earth continuity, lead polarity, and insulation resistance. 

This is an easy process that will prove (through the application of a safety sticker upon completion) that your equipment is abiding to construction site safety regulations. A good thing to remember is that many contractors may require their subcontractors to have PAT testing in place, so it is good practice for your business to perform tests at appropriate intervals to ensure your electrical equipment is safe for use. 

If your equipment is deemed unsafe, there are a number of common reasons for this and ways to rectify them.


Why would a tool fail a PAT test?

There are many common reasons why a tool might fail a PAT test. Generally, these are to do with reasonable damage, including:

1. Damage due to prolonged use

This could mean anything from damaged casing, exposed wires and broken plugs due to an accident or mishandling of equipment. This can be costly and depending on the level of damage, could lead to having to replace the tool entirely.

2. Power issues 

This means a tool not working properly, or losing power in the middle of work. This can slow down overall productivity on a construction site and cause frustration for the individual user.


3. Internal issues

This could mean anything from a motor issue, to an engine issue or a faulty generator (to name a few) and they can often be more difficult to detect, which could mean excess time and cost to find a solution.

While some of these issues naturally happen on a high risk construction site, it is surprising how many of them occur due to the lack of communication, organisation and a carefully curated management system. Improving these areas will reduce the number of tools failing a PAT test and ultimately, improve the overall health and safety on site.


What are the best ways to reduce tools failing PAT test?

The best ways to reduce tools failing a PAT test are directly related to how you work with your team directly and involve careful planning to ensure compliance. These fall into two major areas:


There must be a system in which an employee can report and track any changes or damages for specific tools. This would ensure that both employer and employee are aware of not only tools that are in regular use, but their safety status. Not only this, but it would create accountability, so that workers are less likely to mishandle tools by either leaving them unsupervised or using them incorrectly.


Each tool must have a regularly updated and easily accessible record that can be referred to at any time for both employer and employee. This would ensure that all tools are kept track of (where they are, who is using them, their current safety state) so that potential for damage and PAT test failure is reduced. 

By implementing a digitised asset management system, these two areas can be greatly improved. A carefully created and maintained system will allow your business to keep track of tool data so that an unsafe tool is never out in circulation on the site without being fully compliant - making it less likely to fail a PAT test when the time comes.

To learn more about electrical appliance regulations and how best to optimise your business to adhere to these, download the 2019 Construction Site Safety Guide: your one-stop manual to all things construction site safety and how to make your business as compliant as it can be. In the guide, you will find more in-depth descriptions about regulations you need to abide to, helpful ways to manage your assets and ultimately, how to improve overall compliance and safety on site.