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How to safety-check a meter in the field
September 2018, IS & Ex
Digital multimeters are designed to assist users to carry out test and measurement functions from simple to highly complex, on the bench or remotely in the field. From time to time, users should test meters and other equipment in the field. By paying attention to the following quick steps, they can help ensure the safety and efficiency of the meter.
• Use common sense: before beginning, take a closer look at the equipment and accessories: does it look shabby and badly worn? If so, perhaps the unit is beyond functional and should not be used.
• Inspect leads: before using test leads, perform an inspection to ensure the leads can safely and accurately conduct electricity for the job at hand. Be sure the leads have shrouded connectors, finger guards, CAT ratings that equal or exceed those of the meter, double insulation and minimum exposed metal on the probe tips.
• Continuity testing: use the meter’s own continuity testing function to check for internal breaks. Check test lead resistance by inserting leads in V/Ω and COM inputs, and selecting Ω, touching probe tips and being sure the leads are 0,1 – 0.3 Ω
• Choose accessories that are suitable for industrial work, and check for abrasions and other damage that eventually occur with use: this way, users will never have to worry about the failure of a test lead or probe or the consequences thereof.
• Inspect test lead insulation: check and ensure that the insulation is not nicked or cracked. With age the insulation material, whether PVC or silicone, can become dried out, brittle and susceptible to cracking. A visual inspection will often show any part of the leads that has this problem. Ensure that there are no signs of gaps or cracks at the junction between the insulated wire and the moulded banana plugs or probes at each end.
• Verify correct voltage rating: verify that the meter and accessories are appropriately rated and designed for the system and equipment to which they will be connected. Check for the IEC rating (e.g. CAT III or CAT IV) on the tester, and only purchase leads and other accessories that meet or exceed that rating.
Safety checking equipment in the field can reduce hazards and ensure that equipment is safely functional. Whether the equipment is a voltage tester or a digital multimeter, users can benefit greatly by carrying out a quick safety scan before commencing work.
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