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Safety in Electrical Testing

Safety in Electrical Testing

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Published by: kurdufani21 on Dec 31, 2009
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06/18/2011

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General guidance
 
Safety in electrical testing at work 
What is thisguidance about?
This booklet provides basic guidance on safeelectrical testing and is intended for anyone whoruns or manages a workplace where electricaltesting is carried out, and for those people doingthe actual testing. It is complemented byinformation sheets which give more detailedinformation about specific types of testing.
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Electrical testing may be carried out for anumber of reasons, for example:(a)quality assurance tests on electricalcomponents;(b)diagnostic testing;(c)fault-finding on electrical plant;(d)routine safety checks.The guidance contains recommendations tohelp you prevent or reduce electrical danger.Some of the main ways in which this can bedone include:(a)following safe systems of work, for example:(i)taking precautions to prevent peoplewho are not doing the testing cominginto contact with exposed live parts;(ii)taking precautions to prevent the testerscoming into accidental contact withexposed live parts;(iii)protecting and insulating both theequipment being worked on and thetesting equipment.(b)using test equipment that is suitable for the job;(c)making sure that people doing the work aresuitably trained and experienced so that theyunderstand safe working practices and theequipment on which they will be working.
What types of testing are covered?
This guidance covers electrical testing insituations (mostly low voltage, ie not exceeding1000 V ac or 1500 V dc) where equipment likedomestic appliances is being tested. Most of thisequipment will be used on mains supplyvoltages of 230 V ac single phase and 400 V acthree phase. However, there could be internallyderived voltages which are much higher and insome cases above the low voltage limits.Some of the test voltages applied to equipmentduring testing may be above the low voltagelimits. These voltages are not considereddangerous if the maximum output currentavailable from the test instrument is reliablylimited to no more 5 mA (traditionally 5 mA achas been used, but since May 2001
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newequipment should be limited to 3 mA ac).
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Safety in electrical testing at work 
What is the risk of injury?
Injury can occur when live electrical parts areexposed and can be touched, or when metalwork which is meant to be earthed becomes live at adangerous voltage. The likelihood of touchinglive parts is increased during electrical testing andfault-finding, when conductors at dangerousvoltages are often exposed. This risk can beminimised if testing is done while the equipmentis isolated from any dangerous source of supply,although this cannot always be done, and caremust also be taken to prevent contact with anyhazardous internally produced voltages.The most dangerous injuries are those causedby electric shock. This is because the effects of a shock are largely unpredictable and can easilylead to a fatal injury. However, there is also arisk of burn injuries resulting from arcing whenconductors are accidentally short-circuited. Asecondary risk can be the harm caused by aperson reacting to an electrical injury, forexample by falling or being traumatised bythe experience.Electric shocks occur when contact with a liveconductor causes sufficient current to passthrough the body to cause an injury. As a roughguide, voltages exceeding 50 V ac or 120 Vripple free dc should be considered hazardousin a dry, unconfined, non-conductive location.These voltage values must be reduced if thelocation is wet, confined or conductive, sowhere there is an adverse environment, those incharge of the work and those doing the work should be aware of the probable increase ininjury risk.In some equipment, for example microwaveovens, high voltages of several thousand voltsare used and there is a very high risk of fatalinjury if the exposed conductors are touched atthese voltages. Injury may also be caused bycurrents as low as 5 mA or by stored charges.Suitable precautions must be taken to preventcontact with stored charges in excess of 350 mJ.If the skin is pricked or cut at the point of contact,the shock current (and hence the seriousness of the injury) will be higher. Healthy skin may alsobecome damaged at the time of contact either bythe burning effect of the current or by penetrationfrom sharp-ended conductors.
Carrying out a risk assessment
As well as the level of voltage, charge orcurrent and the nature of the environment,there are a number of other factors that needto be considered when you are assessing therisk of injury arising from electrical testingwork. A risk assessment should be carried outbefore testing begins, to help you identify theprecautions you need to take.Some questions to ask when carrying out therisk assessment are:(a)Can the work be done with the equipmentdead or energised at a safe voltage or current?(b)Is it absolutely necessary for someone to beworking on or near to equipment that is liveat dangerous voltages or current levels?(c)What is the maximum voltage onconductors that will be exposed during thework activity?(d)Are the testers competent? Are theyadequately trained and knowledgeable to dothe particular work and ensure that othersare not put at risk?(e)If testers are not considered fully competent,are they adequately supervised?(f)What physical safeguards should be applied tothe equipment under test to prevent injury, egthe use of temporary or permanent screens?(g)Is the test instrumentation of safe design?Has it been properly maintained?(h)Is it necessary to set up a permanent testarea separate from the rest of the workplace,
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