Common sense, clear thinking, attention to detail, and personnel safety equipment can save life and limb when conducting a power quality analysis.

Can conducting a power site survey be dangerous? If you're not safety conscious, you bet it can. In fact, several electrical accidents have occurred over the past several years. Although most of these injuries were minor, two proved near fatal. One of these accidents happened at an industrial plant where an AC power line monitor connected to a 480VAC electrical panel. While discussing the monitor connections with a plant electrician, the PQ investigator pointed at components in the panel with a metal pen. Unfortunately, he accidentally touched the electrical mains with the pen. The resulting flash and electrical shock caused second-degree burns on both men. The PQ investigator now has limited use of his right hand.

Electrical accidents demonstrate the ongoing need for safe electrical work practices. Most of us as electrical contractors and electrical maintenance personnel attend required safety training. Unfortunately, the bulk of people conducting PQ investigations are not qualified electrical maintenance personnel.

With the exception of electrical utilities' PQ personnel, most involved with power quality investigations do not employ regular safety training. Therefore, some industry experts believe most people never report the majority of safety incidents related to PQ investigations. Remember, conduct a power site survey safely as well as quickly!

It's important to keep some of the following rules in mind when performing any type of electrical system investigation.

* Work with qualified electrician maintenance personnel. If you don't hold a journeyman's or master electrician's license, this is a mandatory requirement in most metropolitan locations. If you do have an electrician's license, it's still a good idea to work in pairs. This will provide an extra set of eyes to review test equipment configurations and test results. It also allows you to secure the test location while the other person performs the measurements. This is also advantageous when emergency medical assistance is necessary. Remember, if you're performing a power site survey with another person, periodically check his or her whereabouts and intentions.

* Maintain training. Most people performing power quality surveys have never been through formal safety training. PQ personnel should attend training courses on subjects such as general power distribution, electrical safety training, and first aid. Make sure you're familiar with OSHA regulations; this will help if there's ever any doubt about safety requirements in particular locations.

* Use personnel safety equipment. Make sure you wear safety gloves and safety glasses with side shields. Also, verify screwdrivers, wrenches, and other tools are rated for use with electrical systems.

* Use test equipment correctly. Some of the aforementioned electrical accidents occurred in the absence of test equipment. In addition, the equipment's configuration did not meet manufacturer's instructions. As such, always read the manual.

* Don't assume anything. Never approach power quality investigations with a cavalier attitude. If you suspect an unsafe condition, verify it from a distance or have a qualified person investigate. Then make sure you correct the problem before you resume the investigation in that area.

* Secure all test equipment. Make sure test equipment is secure if you have to leave it unattended at the site. Relocating test equipment from high traffic areas is a very good idea because it reduces the possibility of damage to the test equipment and someone tripping over it. Besides, it helps keep curious onlookers from sticking their fingers where they don't belong.