10 most common electrical safety mistakes

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It’s the current that kills you, but it’s taking short-cuts that put you at risk.

10 most common electrical safety mistakes

1. Underestimating the dangers of lower voltage levels

“It’s only 120 volts (or 208 or 480).” The only difference between low and high voltage is how fast it can kill you. High voltage kills instantly; low voltage may take a while longer. A 120 volt shock, for example, can lead to death up to 48 hours after the initial exposure. Take appropriate safety precautions.

2. Not wearing PPE during troubleshooting

Many people understandably don’t like wearing rubber insulating gloves or arc flash personal protection equipment (PPE), especially during troubleshooting. PPE can be hot, uncomfortable, restrictive, and slows the work process. But the reality is, component failure can happen at anytime. Whether from carbon build-up or eroded contact material, perfectly good breakers can fail suddenly during troubleshooting. Wearing PPE while simply opening a cabinet or making a quick measurement can mean the difference between injury and safety.

3. Using outdated or defective test equipment

Whether the leads are frayed or the readings seem strange, it could be time to replace dated test tools. Signs it’s time to let the old equipment go include:

4. Not performing required maintenance of power system equipment

Too often companies look at maintenance costs as an overhead expense and don’t regularly inspect electrical distribution equipment. Although it might be difficult to quantify the savings attributed to preventive maintenance, real costs associated with broken down equipment include:

5. Neglecting to properly inspect test instruments and leads

Before beginning the absence of voltage test, inspect the test instrument to ensure it is working properly.  Inspection should include the following questions:

6.Using the wrong test tools for the job

7. Replacing original fuses with cheaper ones

Digital multimeters that meet today’s safety standards include a special high-energy fuse designed to pop before an overload hits your hand. When it’s time to replace your fuse, using a cheaper generic fuse increases your risk exposure to events such as energy spikes.  

8. Working on live current without proper preparation

First, make every effort to de-energize the system. If you have to work on live current, prepare for the hazard as if your life were at stake:

9. Failure to use the Energized Electrical Work Permit system

The Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP) is required in the U.S. to do energized work. Consider it as guidelines for planning the electrical work, assessing the hazard and the risk, choosing the proper PPE for the job and documenting it. The EEWP helps the qualified person plan out the work and what will be required to complete it. Given that the company could be held responsible if someone is hurt it must be made aware of any energized work to be done.

10. Multi-task while working with a live circuit

When working with live circuits, multi-tasking may increase speed and efficiency but the risk isn’t worth it. By holding the meter in one hand while testing with the other, a path could be created to ground through your heart. Put the meter where you can see it or use a meter hanger or a wireless test tool and keep both hands on the job.

For more information on Electrical Safety, see our online course available at the Fluke eLearning Center.

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Basic Safety Procedures

Basic safety procedures and information regarding electrical measurement safety

For more information on Electrical Safety, see our online course available at the Fluke eLearning Center.