Inspecting, testing or commissioning live equipment is an unavoidable high risk activity. This safety topic looks at the controls which should be in place for safe live testing.
What is Live Testing?
Live testing can be defined as the inspection, testing and commissioning of equipment or machinery that cannot be isolated while performing the required work.
Wherever possible, equipment should always be isolated while working on that equipment. However in some circumstance equipment requires testing or commissioning to be carried out that is simply not possible without having the equipment powered and fully operational. Usually this testing relates to electrical work, but it can involve jobs where a machine is required to operate with people in areas where they would normally need to have fully isolated.
The major risks involved with live testing are people coming into contact with exposed live electrical components, or metal parts of equipment which have become live. Contact with live electrical components can result in electric shock, burns from arcing, or secondary injuries from a person’s reaction to electric shock (i.e. a fall). In other situations the unexpected movements of machinery can present a hazard as well.
In our safety observation discussions, we are looking for the following type of things to have been thought about or put in place:
- Was any type of pre-job risk assessment undertaken and recorded by the team on the job? If so the hazards and controls raised in this risk assessment can be the basis for discussions in the safety observation.
- Protection of people not involved on the job such as bystanders or other working in the area (communication, signage, barriers, demarcation)
- Equipment is tagged out of service and/or otherwise prevented from being operated other than for the testing purposes
- All energy sources that can be individually isolated should be. Only those energy sources directly required to be live for the testing should be left un-isolated.
- Correct tools and equipment
- People are trained and authorized
- Environmental factors such as confined working areas, water or moisture, and conductive materials
- Can any protective barriers or screens be used to minimize the possibility of contact?
- Person should never be performing the work alone, and where it is only two people working remotely, they should have established a communication schedule similar to someone working alone.
- Is an emergency isolation point available and clearly signed?
- Electric shock treatment / first aid poster or sign should be in the vicinity
- Good housekeeping
- Any specific clothing / PPE requirements (i.e. long sleeve cotton shirts and long cotton pants, no artificial fibre clothing)
[Content kindly provided by Moolmans]