One of the enduring myths that frequents mobile DJ forums and discussion websites is that Combined Inspection and Testing (otherwise known as Portable Applicance Testing (PAT)) for mobile DJs is a legal requirement. PAT is NOT a legal requirement - however it is a VERY good idea, and this article explores the reasons why.
What is PAT?
PAT is a series of inspections and tests undertaken on an electrical appliance to ensure it is safe to use. If a fault is identified, and if it can be easily rectified, the test engineer may effect a repair and then re-test the appliance. Test engineers, by law, must be 'competent' - however the definition of competent in this regard is not specified.
What does the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) say?
The law requires employers to "assess risks and take appropriate action" (Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974) and that "any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition" (The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989).
So whilst PAT in itself is not a legal requirement, it is arguably the best way to comply with the above legal requirements (along with a written log of visual inspections and repairs), and also to disprove negligence in the event of a claim.
You may also find that your Public Liability Insurer has similar requirements and again, PAT is a great way to disprove negligence which might otherwise mean that your PLI may dodge a payout. Finally, you may find that many venues insist on seeing PAT records before allowing your equipment to be used on their premises or connected to their electrical supply - and in a lot of cases this is down to the demands of their own insurance underwriters.
How often should PAT be undertaken?
The HSE publishes a helpful guide called Electrical Safety for Entertainers and also a guide which sets out suggested maintenance intervals (see Table 1) for different types of equipment based on their usage patters. At needadisco.com and at DJmark we consider that mobile disco equipment is best married to the HSE classification 'Light Industrial' which suggest formal visual inspections every six months and a PAT every 6 - 12 months. This is justified by the fact that equipment is generally used in close proximity to members of the public and is frequently moved from place to place.
Where can I get PAT and how much does it cost?
There are literally dozens of PAT testers in every town, so your best friend is your favourite search engine. Some testers will come to you and others expect you to take your equipment to them. The latter are usually cheaper. Those that come to you will usually have a minimum charge irrespective of the number of items, then a per-item charge above a certain number and a per-item charge for common repairs such as renewing flexes, changing plugtops etc. Most mobile DJs with a typical array of equipment can expect to pay under £100 per set of tests.
REMEMBER - this is a tax-deductible expense, so it can be offset against tax on any profits you make.
Don't certain venues DEMAND PAT?
Indeed - we know of literally thousands of venues across the UK that require visiting entertainers to show PAT records on the date of the event - and we know of quite a few venues that have refused access when the information could not be provided, much to the dismay of the person that actually hired the disco - such as the bride and groom. Whilst some venues will pay a cursory glance at test stickers, many are wising up to the fact that blank stickers are freely available on internet marketplaces so are quite rightly insisting on seeing test reports. We are aware of some upmarket venues with lots to lose requesting PAT details in advance in order to validate them with the testing company. Some venues (admittely mostly council-run) insist on testing equipment themselves before it can be used.
Does brand new equipment need PAT testing?
As stated above, PAT is not a requirement, however we have seen multiple examples over the years where brand new equipment has failed a PAT test. In most cases this has been due to a poor earth connection caused by excess paint on the metal terminals inside the unit. So in our experience, yes, new equipment should be tested. Some suppliers will PAT test new equipment prior to shipping - ask yours to do so.
Can I buy a test machine and conduct my own PAT?
The HSE state that the person conducting the tests must be 'competent', but fail to define this term, so it is one for the court to decide. Training courses are available, including online tests. However anyone intending to go down this route should consider that a suitable test unit is likely to cost anything from £300 upwards into the several thousand pounds range. In addition, each unit requires an annual calibration which can cost around £50-£60. These two factors combined, plus the risk of being deemed not competent in any court action, along with the typical cost of a professional PAT inspection should be considered. It is our opinion that the majority of part-time DJs with a small array of equipment would not see a financial return unless they were to offer PAT services to third parties.
So, in a nutshell...Mobile DJs do not NEED PAT to operate legally, but it's a really good idea to get testes regularly, especially if you are seeking bookings in upmarket venues. Remember that ALL DJmark Award holders have recently provided proof of recent PAT tests.