A tried and trusted method of evaluating the integrity of electrical devices, the PAT testing procedure will deliver a verdict of a pass or fail on devices. Whilst receiving a pass will confirm that a particular appliance is adequate for continued service, what happens should a PAT test fail?

Failed PAT Test – What Happens?

Whilst the primary objective of a PAT test is to determine if an appliance is safe for workers and the public, it is also helpful in finding faulty devices and repairing where possible and inexpensive to do, or dispose of them entirely.

As the customer, a business will usually receive the PAT test report – if the examiner is competent – which will detail the procedure, the findings, reasons for failure and recommendations as to whether the appliance is suitable for repair or needs disposal.

The recommendations made will sometimes make proposals suggesting that the appliance could be suitable for repair by a specialist engineer – such as a domestic appliance engineer or an engineer hired directly by the manufacturer – but such recommendations will be on a case by case basis.

Should the reason for failure be relatively small and easily remedied, professional PAT testers will often schedule an intervention after all tests have been completed: for example, if the casing of a plug were to be a reason for failure, it would be replaced and, once the appliance is within an operational standard, it will be issued a renewed passed certificate.

Sometimes an appliance will merely have reached its end-of-life and must be put out of commission, disposed of and replaced. Whilst it is unfortunate that an appliance that was once thought of as operational may have to be replaced at additional expense, the preservation of workplace safety should be at the forefront of importance.

Common Reasons for PAT Test Fails

There are some extremely common reasons for PAT test fails and any duty holder would benefit from being able to identify them so that if a device were to become unsafe for use between PAT test periods, the device can be removed and quarantined until it is deemed as suitable for repair or to be disposed of.

Here are some of the more common reasons for PAT test failure:

  • Damaged Plugs: Any damage to the structural integrity of a plug or appliance itself – such as cracks, dents or holes – could pose electric shock potential and lead to a PAT test fail.
  • Counterfeit/Fake Cables: Many counterfeit cables have shoddy workmanship – particularly the plug unit. Often, through incompetent/rushed labour, an earth pin will be partially insulated causing the earth element to be missing when it is plugged in. Don’t knowingly purchase cables from unauthorised sellers.
  • Damage to Flex/Wiring: Cables with regular use and movement (think phone charging cables) will eventually be prone to wear and tear: once a cable enters its final stage of life, naked wires may become visible and risk conducting unwanted current outside of the sheath.
  • Non-Insulated & Live Pins: Though new plugs come fabricated with insulated live and neutral pins, older plugs may not. Though rare in occurrence, older, uninsulated pins can cause shocks to users via accident or deliberately with external utensils. Such older plugs will fail a PAT test.
  • Incorrect Fuse Use: Many people do not know which fuses are suitable for certain devices, because of this incorrect fuses may be installed. If an inadequate fuse is found to be in use during a PAT test it will result in a fail and the test engineer will replace the fuse with a one of the correct rating to ensure the device is safe to use.

Items That Most Commonly Fail PAT Tests

Several items within the home and office will fail PAT tests more often than others:

  • Mains power supply cords for computers and monitors – particularly in offices with floor boxes, in which the lid can cut into the cable if closed before the cable is sat flush.
  • Kettles – such a fast-moving consumer product, that is often used communally and often is prone to breakage.
  • Extension cables – plug them in, put them down, kick them about and forget about them. Their insignificance once installed plays a large role in their failure: accidental kicks here and there will contribute to the external casing receiving damage and internal components loosening over time due to the vibrations.

Other Reasons for PAT Test Failure

Not all PAT test fails are caused by an appliance being categorically faulty. There are various reasons why a PAT test may fail, including:

  • Age of appliance
  • Aged PAT testing tools
  • PAT testing tools incorrectly calibrated or calibration has lapsed
  • Incorrect choice of PAT test for the appliance
  • Incorrectly conducted PAT tests

Expert PAT Testing Services in the Midlands 

Though a PAT fail is unfortunate, sometimes it is a necessary evil in the bigger picture of keeping yourself, your workers and property safe from harm. Incompetent or incomplete PAT testing can result in faults remaining completely undetected or perfectly adequate electrical appliances being receiving a failure: both unwanted and avoidable outcomes.

We established Cardinal Fire Protection to translate the often-complicated business of fire safety and protection into its most simple form: helping businesses who have, at one point, fallen short of fire safety expectations.

As specialists in fire safety and prevention, we conduct expert PAT testing and provide industry-leading fire safety advice to your business so that you can focus on the commercially demanding aspect of your day-to-day, whilst keeping your employees and customers safe.
Did you find our PAT Test Failure guide helpful? If you did, please broaden your fire safety knowledge via reading our articles on Who can PAT Test?, the PAT Testing Classes, BS5839 Guide and the Fire Safety Training for Employees Handbook.