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The Problem

Bill, owner/manager of a 40-room Hotel currently spends some £800 a year on a sub-contractor to carry out Portable Appliance Testing. The testing takes place over 2 days and gaining access to all the rooms can cause problems. He wants to investigate the possibility of this being done in-house to reduce costs and allow flexibility in the timing of the tests. However he is keen not to fall foul of the regulations.

The Law

The Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) requires "All electrical systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any danger". This is interpreted as covering the fixed electrical installation as well as portable and transportable equipment connected to it.


The Regulations also state "It is the duty of every employer and self employed person to comply with the provision of these Regulations."

Expert Advise

You do not have to be an electrician to implement a programme to maintain portable and transportable electrical appliances. A hotel is considered to be a "low risk" environment and a few simple procedures will go a long way to ensuring the safety of guests and staff.

Involve the staff by encouraging them to look for signs of a possible hazard as part of their daily routine in each room. They should look for damage to the outside of the equipment, its lead and plug. Any suspected faults should be reported to a supervisor.

Periodically, a more detailed formal check is necessary. As well as looking for signs of damage as above, the plug cover should be removed and the wiring inspected. Any designated member of staff who has some guidance on what to look for can carry this out. It is important to record the outcome of this formal inspection.


Although around 95% of potential problems can be eliminated by visual inspection alone there are some faults that cannot be picked up. Hence some testing is necessary to complement the inspection. If a PAT tester with Pass/Fail indication is used, a member of staff who has been given appropriate instructions can carry out this stage. This PAT testing should be combined with an inspection and the outcome needs to be recorded.


The frequency of the formal inspection and the testing is dependent on a number of factors. One factor is environment. Generally hotels and tourist accommodation are considered to be a "low-risk". Another factor is the type of appliance. For example, a transportable item such as a kettle needs to be inspected every year but only require testing every 2 years. A handheld item, such as a hairdryer would need to be inspected every 6 months. On the other hand, a PC in the office that is rarely moved need only be inspected every 2 years and require testing every 4 years.


It is quite straightforward to implement this 3-stage plan of staff checks, formal inspection and testing. With PAT testers only costing around £300 there are substantial cost savings to be made. As annual testing is only necessary with some equipment, there is plenty of flexibility to schedule the testing to fit in with the normal running of the hotel.


To Do List

Appoint a person to be responsible for this area.

Provide this person with appropriate training and/or relevant literature.

Contact HSE Books for free leaflet IND(G)237L.

Read other articles on this website.

Train all staff on what to look for.

Discourage staff from bringing personal electrical equipment into work.

Make a list of all the electrical appliances in the hotel.

Assess the periods for formal inspection and testing.

Buy or rent a PAT tester that gives Pass or Fail indication.

Record all results of formal inspection and PAT testing.


A poorly maintained electrical appliance can seriously injure or kill a user. If a guest were to be injured during a stay then as well as compensation claims Bill may be subject to an investigation by the HSE that could lead to a prosecution and hefty fines.