Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) – A Guide For Musicians

5 JULY 2016
Blog post by Adam Southall

At FixTheMusic we take the safety of our musicians very seriously. There is some confusion about what Portable Appliance Testing actually involves, so this short blog post seeks to explain exactly what PAT is and why it is so important.

For obvious safety reasons, electrical equipment should be maintained properly, and a key part of this is Portable Appliance Testing at regular intervals. The Health and Safety Executive notes that almost a quarter of all electrical accidents involve portable equipment with the vast majority of these accidents resulting in electric shock.*

Portable Appliance Testing is the appraisal of the safety of portable electrical equipment. This involves visual inspection of appliances and cables for any obvious damage, but also testing the appliance with an approved device to measure certain parameters, such as earth continuity, insulation resistance and polarity check.

Although maintaining the safety of electrical equipment is required by law**, especially for employers who have a duty of care to their employees, PAT is not in itself a legal requirement.

However, many venues that host live music, particularly wedding venues, increasingly require that musicians using their own electrical equipment such as portable amplification systems (e.g. microphones, signal processors, amplifiers and loudspeakers) or a digital piano, provide PAT compliance records for all appliances and cables.

Guidance states that you should use your own judgement with regard to how often to test equipment. At least once per year is recommended.

PAT devices range in cost from approximately £100 for an entry-level device which will test for the basic parameters listed above (earth continuity, insulation resistance and polarity check), to several hundred pounds — the more expensive devices will test for more parameters, such as protective conductor/touch current measurement, also known as earth leakage test, and fuse test.

Again, it’s best to use your own judgement to decide which sort of PAT device is suitable for your needs. If you use a lot of expensive portable electrical equipment, e.g. a 5-piece wedding band performing regularly with PA system and full lighting rig, you may want to invest in a more high-spec PAT device to keep your equipment protected. But the cheaper PAT devices available also have their merits and will detect most electrical issues.

To summarise, Portable Appliance Testing is strongly recommended for your own safety and the safety of others, and although employers are required by law to keep appliances in good condition, and PAT is often a requirement for musicians performing at public venues such as wedding venues, it is not in itself a legal requirement.

Also have a read of our blog post on public liability insurance for musicians.

References

*Guidance for the registration, inspection and testing of portable electrical equipment, published by the University of Wolverhampton, June 2006.

**The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, published by the Health and Safety Executive, October 2015.

About Adam Southall — Adam is a co-founder of FixTheMusic and works on everything from copywriting and marketing to design and user experience. He studied Music at Cambridge University. Adam is a keen pianist, and also learned cello and trumpet from an early age.