Safety Tips for Servicing Energized Electrical Equipment
What does it take to work safely on energized electrical equipment? The best answer is “don’t do it.” Powering down electrical equipment is undoubtedly the most important safety tip. However, that’s not always possible. In some cases, the power simply has to stay on while you’re servicing the equipment. What do you then? It’s an important subject, as your life is literally at risk. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some horrendous accidents and even deaths caused by working on or near energized electrical equipment. Here are some tips you can follow to stay safe:
- Know what you’re doing — Only qualified people should work on electric circuit parts or electrical equipment that is energized. This means work can be performed only by people who are trained and familiar with all the various precautions, insulating and shielding materials, insulated tools and personal protective equipment (PPE). If you are not knowledgeable and experienced with all these things, don’t do the service work.
- Work with proper lighting — Equipment isn’t always housed in well-illuminated places. You must have sufficient light to work safely. If you can’t see what you’re doing or are working in a situation where you have to reach into a dark space that might contain energized parts, you risk having an incident. If you don’t have the right working light conditions, stop and take care of this problem before you do anything else.
- Be careful with any conductive materials or equipment — Conductive materials that are in contact with your body when you’re working on energized equipment expose you to the risk of electrocution. You could also cause an arc flash by conducting two separate power sources at once. Conductors might include things like pipes or ducts as well as ladders and apparel. Anything you can control, like clothing or ladders, should be non-conductive. It’s a good practice to go through a methodical self-inspection to make sure you’re not wearing anything conductive like a ring or watch before you do your work on energized equipment.
- Use the appropriately rated PPE for the job - It’s essential that you wear your complete PPE that will provide you with adequate protection for the equipment you are working on and for the task you are conducting. This includes voltage rated rubber gloves & leather protectors, arc flash suit (jackets & bib overalls or coveralls are most common), hood with face shield or balaclava with face shield, safety glasses and ear plugs. In addition, you should follow the standards, use protective barriers and whatever else you need to protect yourself. Your employer should provide what you need to keep you safe.
Remember, energized equipment can be dangerous, even lethal, if it’s not handled properly. These tips are a good start to staying safe. The best protection, though, comes from training, electrical safe work practices and whether you’re properly equipped with the right PPE and equipment. If you aren’t sure, delay the work until you are certain you’ve got the gear you need to avoid injuries or worse.
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