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Tuesday, June 27, 2017
POSTED BY TURTLE & HUGHES COMMUNICATIONS BLOG IN
PERSPECTIVES, PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY
Scores of American workers are killed or seriously injured in electrical accidents each year. In 2016, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recorded 73 electrocution deaths and seven hospitalizations due to on-the-job arc flashes. Many of these accidents could have easily been prevented. Below are 10 tips for how not to become a statistic — because even the most experienced of electricians can slip up.
Using a test tool that is not matched to the CAT level of your job, such as using a digital multimeter (DMM) to test higher voltage equipment than it’s rated for, can have dire consequences. That means you may need to switch digital multimeters (DMMs) throughout your workday to stay safe and avoid arc flashes, but that’s a small price to pay for safety. That goes for test leads as well, since they also must be correctly rated for each job.
Using a piece of wire to stand in for a blown fuse in a digital multimeter (DMM) might seem like a good idea if you’re in a hurry, but don’t do it — that wire won’t protect you from an electrical spike. And while you’re at it, replace the original fuse with one of similar quality, not a less expensive one that may not have the latest safety features.
Just as fuse designs improve with evolving technology, so do DMMs. If your DMM is more than a few years old, do yourself a favor: Toss it and treat yourself to an upgrade. Enhanced safety features built into newer DMMs are well worth the price of new gear — over a test gone bad. For example, new safety standards restrict test probe tips to no more than 4 mm of exposed metal for use in CAT III and CAT IV environments.
Safety glasses, insulated gloves, ear plugs, face shields and arc-resistant clothing offer the added assurance that you’ll get home from work safely. If you’re working around moving equipment, especially anything with a mechanical shaft, it’s also critical to avoid wearing hazardous clothing. Lanyards and necklaces can be deadly if caught in moving parts. And if your test gear has cords, make sure they have breakaways to protect you if an item gets dropped into machinery.
While de-energizing equipment before you work is the surest way to stay safe, sometimes testing live equipment can’t be avoided. If you must work with live circuits, first ensure that the equipment has been assessed for arc flash risk, you are wearing protection as indicated in table H.3(b) of NFPA 70E, and you’ve confirmed that your test tools are working properly by using them on sources of known voltage before you begin. Another option may be to use an infrared (IR) camera to detect abnormal heating in live circuits. Ideally, an IR window set in the cabinet containing the equipment to be inspected creates a barrier between you and any potential problems.
Lockout/tagout procedures keep you safe by preventing one of your coworkers from re-energizing the equipment you’re working on. You can find sample procedures on the OSHA website.
Don’t try to hold your DMM in one hand while testing with the other — that could create a route for electricity to ground straight through your heart. Take the time to put down your DMM before you test. Even better, use a wireless DMM so that you only have one hand at a time on the circuit you’re testing, and use an alligator clip for your ground.
Need to get a part number from a machine in motion or measure the speed of a rotating component? Resist the temptation to use a tachometer or other device that requires making contact with moving parts, potentially endangering yourself. Instead, pick up an LED stroboscope. The flashing of a stroboscope’s light can be adjusted to match the
rotational speed of a moving part, making the part appear to freeze in
place so that numbers can be read. In addition, the device can calculate
revolutions per minute based on the flash rate required to “freeze” to
Not only can the leads for test tools get in your way while you take measurements, they can also add to your safety risk by requiring you to spend more time in a potentially hazardous area and by increasing your risk of getting shocked. Wireless tools don’t have cables connecting them to the equipment being tested. Many wireless models also have on-board instructions that can walk you through the most efficient procedures, further reducing your time spent on a job.
Equipment failure poses a two-fold risk: it puts nearby workers in danger in the case of catastrophic failure that may involve flying parts or fire, and it potentially risks (depending on the equipment) spilling hazardous materials that could spread to other areas. To avoid this problem, test rotating machinery with a vibration meter to detect early signs of failure, and add regular vibration testing to operator inspection routines.
Having the right tool for the job will keep you out of harm’s way, which is why we carry the full line of safety equipment and electronic tests tools from Fluke, a trusted source. You can protect yourself by asking your Turtle & Hughes salesperson to evaluate your current equipment and always follow these safety tips.
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