What is a portable appliance? Defining a Portable Appliance in the Context of PAT Testing

Understanding the definition of a portable appliance is fundamental when discussing Portable Appliance Testing (PAT).

In the realm of electrical safety and compliance, the term ‘portable appliance’ has a specific meaning that determines the scope and requirements of PAT.

What is a Portable Appliance?

A portable appliance is generally defined as any electrical equipment that is not part of a permanent installation but is instead connected to the power supply via a plug and socket. (See also Fixed Appliance Testing).

The key characteristics that define a portable appliance include:

  1. Mobility: The appliance is movable or can be easily moved from one place to another. This includes items like kettles, toasters, desktop computers, and fans.
  2. Transportability: The appliance can be easily transported, indicating it is not fixed and can be unplugged and moved. Examples include electric drills, vacuum cleaners, and floor polishers.
  3. Hand-held While in Use: Appliances that are intended to be held in hand during operation, such as hairdryers, power tools, and garden equipment.
  4. Stationary Appliances: Although not frequently moved, these are still considered portable due to their plug-and-socket connection to the electrical supply. Examples include refrigerators, washing machines, and microwaves.
  5. IT Equipment: Generally referred to as Information Technology equipment, including items like printers, scanners, and servers.
  6. Moveable Equipment: This category includes larger items like electric heaters, free-standing air conditioning units, and large fans, which are not hand-held but can be moved.

What is a portable appliance – why is the Definition Important?

The broad definition of a portable appliance underscores the scope of PAT testing.

It highlights the variety of equipment that needs to be tested to ensure electrical safety in diverse settings, from offices to industrial sites. The definition is crucial for:

  • Ensuring Comprehensive Safety Checks: By understanding what constitutes a portable appliance, PAT testers can ensure that all relevant equipment is inspected and tested.
  • Compliance with Safety Regulations: Accurately identifying portable appliances ensures compliance with health and safety regulations, particularly where PAT testing is concerned.
  • Risk Management: It helps in identifying which items in a workplace or domestic setting might pose electrical risks if not maintained or tested regularly.

What is a portable appliance – does it really matter?

The definition of a portable appliance is integral to the practice of Portable Appliance Testing. The comprehensive definition of a portable appliance, crucial for effective PAT testing, finds its roots in the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) Code of Practice.

This authoritative guide, particularly in its 5th Edition, provides extensive guidance on in-service inspection and testing, including the categorisation and definition of various electrical appliances.

It encompasses a wide range of electrical equipment, all of which require regular inspection and testing to ensure they are safe to use.

Understanding what falls under this category is the first step in ensuring adherence to electrical safety standards and regulations.

Importantly for anyone involved in PAT testing, recognising the diverse range of portable appliances is key to performing thorough and effective safety checks.

The skills and competence required to inspect Fixed Appliances and the Fixed Electrical Installation of a Building, for example, are very different to those required by a competent PAT Tester. Each is a different specialism with different regulations.