As an employer, it’s your job to make sure that your workers are always safe on the job, especially if they're working around electrical currents. One part of keeping a safe workplace is submitting to electrical testing. Electrical testing not only ensures the safety of your employees and equipment but can also help you stay compliant with OSHA guidelines and protect your reputation as a company.
Electrical Safety Standards
First things first: what are electrical safety standards? Essentially, we’re referring to standards that are meant to ensure the safety of processes or pieces of equipment that one might use on the job. Some standards are legally enforced (OSHA is probably what you’re most familiar with), while others are simply best practice guidelines that are recommended but aren’t strictly enforced.
As with any kind of testing, there are certain standards that an electrical system must meet in order to be considered safe. But where did these standards come from, and why are they put in place? Electrical safety standards for the workplace are set by a number of different organizations, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
These agencies each have their own individual concerns, and their standards may or may not be enforced in certain areas or for certain groups. For instance, the NFPA set their standards through a consensus of more than 200 committees and gives an overarching guide to keeping workplaces safe from an electrical standpoint. The ANSI, on the other hand, is more specific and focuses on equipment standards.
Importance of Electrical Testing
Electrical testing is a vital part of keeping your workplace safe and effective. First, electrical testing ensures that your workers are always safe from any potential hazards. In addition to giving your workers a peace of mind and a sense of confidence on the job, you’ll also rest assured that you have a lower risk of workers’ compensation claims or equipment repairs or replacements that could result from faulty equipment.
Of course, staying compliant with OSHA is a major concern for many employers, and proper and regular electrical testing is a great way to ensure you’re following the rules. If you fail to submit to electrical testing and an issue results because of it, your company could be subject to major fines.
Additionally, electrical safety standards may change from year to year. Even if you’ve previously been in compliance with a certain standard, a change in the guidelines could mean that you’re suddenly not doing enough. However, with regular electrical testing, you’ll always be kept aware of the most up-to-date information and can make sure you’re always complying with the latest standards, saving yourself the hassle and headache of updates and fines.
Electrical Testing Requirements
OSHA sets forth the electrical testing requirements that companies are mandated to follow. They create their requirements based on the advising of several of the other groups that we mentioned earlier. For instance, OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910 Subpart S covers a wide range of standards on electrical systems and safety. Within this standard, they refer to advising from NFPA and ANSI as well. OSHA’s standards cover all aspects of safety in the workplace, from the performance of your workplace’s equipment to the personal protective equipment (PPE) that your workers must have access to.
As far as your part, having regular electrical testing is a vital part of meeting OSHA standards. However, requirements for frequency of testing can vary. You might do some basic safety inspections within your own workplace as often as every day or every week, but having a professional or an OSHA employee come to do an inspection may happen far less frequently.
Types of Electrical Testing
“Electrical testing” is an overarching term, but in fact, there are multiple different kinds of electrical tests that you might have performed in your workplace.
For instance, a high voltage test is one of the most common types of electrical testing. during this test, an electrician will apply a voltage that is much higher than the operating voltage to a specific device. Typically, the voltage is doubled; for instance, if a device is operating voltage is 120 volts, the electrician will apply 240 volts. For the product to pass the test, the device’s insulation should not be breached even under the extreme stress.
Another common electrical test is the insulation resistance test, which measures the overall resistance of a device’s insulation. For low voltage systems, a voltage anywhere from 500 volts to 1000 volts is typically applied. In this case, results are measured by a trend and readings over time, whereas the similar high voltage test is a kind of “one and done” procedure. With this test, changes in the results over a given period can indicate an issue.
A few additional types of electrical testing you may face include the earth continuity test and the leakage current test, also known as the line leakage test.
Choose a NETA Accredited Company
Regardless of which electrical test you are undergoing, it is vital to choose a company accredited by NETA to administer the testing. NETA, or the International Electrical Testing Association, was founded in 1972 and has since been one of the top resources for establishing electrical standards. NETA accredited companies (or NAC) must adhere to a strict set of guidelines to even be considered for the accreditation, And the application process is rigorous and extensive. Once a company does achieve NETA accreditation, they undergo frequent reevaluations to ensure that guidelines are always being followed.
Mark Thomas & Associates Electrical Engineers (MTA) is proud to be recognized as a NETA accredited company. We maintain the highest standards of both quality and service in all manners of electrical testing. For more information about the services we provide to our clients throughout California and the West Coast, contact us today!