Safety Tips to Keep in Mind When Testing Electricity

Establishing a safe environment for installing and testing electrical equipment seems like an easy task. All you need to do is turn the power off, right? Wrong - there’s actually more to safety than meets the eye. 

If you rush into this task like it’s easy, you could be setting yourself up for an accident. Many times, the job of testing and installing itself represents only a small portion of the work that needs to be done. Planning ahead will make the task more efficient and safer not just for the people performing the work, but for everyone else in the working environment.

Understand these five factors before testing electricity

  1. Are you troubleshooting or testing for voltage? Remember, live conditions may be required to replicate an issue in need of troubleshooting, so additional safety measures must be taken. Testing for voltage, on the other hand, will require work to stop and live parts to be de-energized. 
  2. What tools will be needed to determine if a circuit is live? Non-contact proximity testers, electrical testers or multimeters are appropriate for an initial test, but additional equipment may be needed later to ensure accuracy. 
  3. Collect and use the right Personal Protective Equipment for testing electricity. Equipment ranging from helmets to gloves and face shields should be provided to protect employees from electrical shock, burns and other injuries.
  4. Ensure that the proper lockout/tagout procedures are completed as recommended by OSHA, as well as any additional procedures your company requires. 
  5. Make sure the testing tools are working properly. Any testing tools that show signs of damage or malfunction should never be used, as poorly functioning tools could increase the risk of accident and injury.

Make sure you have the right tools for testing

  • Low-voltage proximity tester – Start with this tool as a good first test, but follow up with a direct-contact meter to ensure an accurate reading.
  • Digital multimeter – This tool is the standard when you're trying to find an accurate contact measurement and determine if a circuit is live. Make sure the tool is set to measure volts as opposed to amps.
  • Fused electronic testers – This is the new generation of solenoid testers. The newest tools can detect voltage as low as 10 volts and the fused construction provides transient protection. Old solenoid detectors may not detect voltage up to 90 volts.
  • Personal protective gear – Make sure anyone testing electricity is outfitted with the proper protective gear, such as nonconductive helmets, shields for protecting the face and eyes from electric arcs or flashes, fire resistant clothing and insulating gloves.

Follow recommended procedures

Finally, make sure you follow the proper lockout/tagout procedures and use testing equipment as recommended by the manufacturer. OSHA's recommendations for lockout/tagout system procedures include notifying employees of the system to be used and having designated employees know the exact amount and type of energy the equipment uses; shutting the equipment down and dissipating any stored energy; isolating it from the energy source; and placing locks or tags on the equipment that are easily identifiable as holding energy isolating devices in a safe position.

If you're new to testing electricity or are looking for the right test and measurement equipment for the job, contact MATsolutions. We can help you find the right products for your needs. Visit our website to learn more about our offerings.