With clear directives from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that live work should never be undertaken where there is the option to work dead, establishing an effective electrical safe isolation procedure is critical when it comes to proving dead and keeping you safe.
Despite legislation designed to ensure that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day, electricity is still the root cause of about 1,000 accidents at work each year – with many more incidents inevitably going unreported. With 16% of all workplace fatalities linked to electricity – each and every fatality devastating beyond measure – failure to comply with the Electricity At Work regulations is simply not an option. The emphasis of enforcement is now as much about the potential risk to personnel as it is about actual incidents. Average fines have trebled in recent years and penalties are extended to all employees, including, for example, chargehands not only Directors, as per section 37 of the Health and Safety At Work Etc Act.
In breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, a British waste management firm was fined £900,000 plus costs in 2017 after a contractor suffered serious injury by inadvertently cutting through live cabling and removing equipment – having been told that it was safe to do so. Subsequent investigations found that several further pieces of equipment had not been subject to effective safe isolation procedures and had not been electrically isolated.
Proving dead – for the ultimate protection across the electrical infrastructure
Ensuring that workers are not exposed to danger when working on or near live electrical systems requires a combination of effective safe isolation procedures and equipment that meets the latest standards, including HSE GS38 guidance notes.
With over 90 years of experience in the development of electrical safety testing solutions, Martindale Electric specialises in safe isolation – ensuring that circuits have been de-energised and properly isolated prior to maintenance and modification – and is leading the charge for safer working to reduce preventable accidents.
Wherever possible and practicable, it is vital that engineers and maintenance teams work on dead circuits. By taking the time to identify risks and introduce steps to ensure that all equipment is electrically safe prior to starting work, it’s possible to protect employees and contractors working across the entire electrical infrastructure. Failure to use the right equipment can result in a circuit remaining live – with fatal consequences. So many incidents can be avoided with proper work planning as well as by selecting the right tools for the job.
When OFF doesn’t mean OFF
One of the most important elements of the safe isolation procedure – the selection and deployment of the right safe isolation equipment – can protect against serious injury and prevent loss of life. Whilst locking off the circuit correctly is an important step in the procedure, it’s not enough to assume that the circuit is subsequently dead because a particular isolation device has been placed in the OFF position. Although a particular circuit may be locked off, the neutral conductor can become live if an energized load on another circuit is connected to it.
Eliminate uncertainty with a vital cross-check
Guidance from Electrical Safety First – the UK charity working across the electrical industry and government to reduce deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents – states that before carrying out any work on a circuit, contractors should use a dedicated voltage indicator (VI) and proving unit when proving dead.
It’s not uncommon for circuits to be mislabeled – which can be particularly dangerous as this provides no certainty that the correct circuit is actually locked off. Whilst it may sound obvious to use a voltage indicator and proving unit to prove dead, we know that there are still far too many instances where engineers might try to use a known live source to test a voltage indicator. The problem is that the known live source may only light some of the LEDs on the tester – whereas a proving unit will ensure that all the LEDs on all ranges are working, eliminating any uncertainty. A further issue is that a known live source may not be conveniently available, increasing the risk that the VI is not actually proved to be operating correctly.
Busting the multimeter myth
As well as identifying the right tools for the task, with a wide range of equipment on hand, it’s as important to understand what should not be used as part of this critical process.
Multimeters introduce the potential for human error – making it too easy to select the wrong range. In addition, multimeters rely on battery power; if the batteries are flat then a false “dead” reading will be given on a live circuit. The position is similar with non-contact voltage detectors; whilst these are frequently used to detect live cables, they cannot reliably be used to prove dead or to confirm the safe isolation of a circuit.
Keeping you safe – made simple
It is now possible to ensure full compliance with the latest standards by using a fail-safe range of voltage indicators and proving devices that have been engineered specifically with safety in mind – and are easier to use than ever before.
We know how important it is to simplify the procedure for proving dead and to support the safe isolation procedure with equipment that is reliable, accurate and easy to deploy. When selecting a voltage detector, you can be assured of compliance with GS38 by ensuring that the unit you are purchasing complies with BS EN 61243-3, such as the VI13800 and VI15000 voltage indicators from Martindale Electric, which have been specifically designed to meet this regulation. Furthermore, they have been designed without batteries or switches which could lead to false indication. Dedicated purely to detect voltage, we have eliminated the potential for error from selecting the wrong setting, for example. For increased efficiency, we have also introduced complete safe isolation kits – bringing together all the necessary equipment to prove dead and lock out the circuit being worked on
Widely specified by contractors and maintenance teams, the kits include the GS38 industry standard voltage indicator, proving unit and locking off devices in a combination carry case – so that vital instruments cannot be inadvertently left behind. Easy to use, the kits ensure compliance with the latest regulations and legislation. Non-compliance presents unacceptable levels of risk in terms of human cost – as well as the potential for financial penalties that would be more than most organizations could bear. At Martindale Electric, we are committed to keeping you safe and driving down the level of preventable accidents that continue to take place. That’s why we work hard to make it simple for our customers to stay safe and stay compliant – regardless of size or budget – as we believe that everybody deserves the most reliable safe isolation solutions.