A Guide to Fixed Wire and PAT Testing in the IT Industry
The IT sector’s heavy reliance on electrical systems and equipment means testing is important for both safety and business continuity. Here, we explain the fixed wire and PAT testing regulations for firms that operate in the IT and technology industries.
What are fixed wire and PAT tests?
Fixed wire testing refers to the safety testing of electrical circuits that are installed in IT business premises. This includes data centres, centralised control hubs, storage facilities and offices. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing), meanwhile, is the inspection of portable electrical equipment and plugged-in appliances to ensure that they are in full working order and can be used safely.
Do IT and tech companies have to have fixed wire tests?
Yes. Any place of work or building where the public may visit must undertake the testing of its electrical circuits. This is a compulsory requirement that ensures IT businesses comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Electricity at Work Regulations. The responsibility for compliance lies with the company’s directors or owners and although they may delegate this to other staff, it is they who are held accountable for ensuring that testing is properly carried out.
Under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, IT companies are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of anyone attending their premises. This includes employees, third-party contractors and members of the public. Additionally, the 1989 Electricity at Work Regulations require companies to properly maintain all their electrical systems to ensure that they do not pose a danger to anyone in attendance.
At the same time, the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) requires IT and technology companies to comply with the IET Wiring Regulations. In practice, this means all their fixed wiring must be installed and maintained in accordance with British Standard BS7671. If compliance with BS7671 is not achieved, the company cannot comply with either the Health and Safety at Work Act or the Electricity at Work Regulations. As a result of non-compliance, the company, together with its directors or owners, potentially face prosecution should an electrical accident or incident take place.
How often does fixed wire testing need to take place?
The 2018 BS7671 Wiring Regulations (18th Edition) requires IT and tech firms to carry out routine inspections of electrical installations once a year. Of even greater importance, however, is the formal fixed wire test which must happen every five years.
Formal fixed wire tests have to be conducted by an appropriately qualified electrical contractor, like Quest Electrical. At the end of the formal test, an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is issued by the contractor. This is needed to verify that a formal test has taken place and was carried out by a qualified inspector.
The EICR contains information about what was inspected and lists any remedial work required before compliance with the IET Wiring Regulations and British Standards BS7671 can be met. It is not until any remedial work has been satisfactorily completed that an EICR can be used as proof of compliance.
Companies should also note that an EICR will go out of date five years after issue and so should not wait until after that date before carrying out the next formal tests. If this happens, the company will no longer be able to prove it has met the legal obligation to formally test its electrical systems. Again, this puts the company and directors at risk of prosecution, makes them liable for electrical accidents and could, potentially, invalidate vital insurance policies.
Do IT and Tech companies have to PAT Test equipment?
PAT Testing is not, at present, a legal requirement in the UK; however, it is the only effective way to ensure that electrical equipment is safe to use and doesn’t pose a risk of injury, as required by the 1989 Electricity at Work Regulations.
This is perhaps especially important in the IT and technology sector which uses a wide range of expensive and operationally critical tech equipment, much of which is run around the clock. Consistent, heavy use can lead to wear and tear, increasing the risk of damage and failure. PAT testing helps companies know that servers, computers, monitors and other appliances are in good working order and safe to use. Not only does PAT Testing reduce the chances of an electrical injury or fire; it can also diminish the potential for downtime and data loss.
As PAT tests are not obligatory, there is no statutory timescale dictating when they need to happen. However, it is long-standing best practice in the UK to have a qualified electrical contractor undertake PAT tests annually.