A year ago, I wrote about advancements taking place in the field of electrical maintenance. I noted that the convergence of software and hardware was creating new options for electrical professionals in the maintenance, repair, and operations world. I also made mention of the amazing capabilities being built into today’s test and measurement equipment. In this month’s issue, we revisit this subject with a slightly different angle, taking a look at the human side of the electrical testing equation.
There’s no doubt that today’s test and measurement equipment offers far more capabilities than earlier models. But are testing professionals and technicians keeping pace with the introduction of these new features and fully utilizing the power of these new devices? Depending on whom you talk to, the answer to this question varies. Our cover story this month, “The Human and Technical Sides of Electrical Testing,” addresses this issue along with a few other topics in the field of test and measurement.
As noted in the story, an individual’s knowledge, experience, intuition, and interpretive skills still play a large role in the test and measurement process. However, variability comes into play on the test and measurement front via interpretation of test results, choice of test method, and attention to detail. This is exactly why training is a key factor that needs to be addressed by both you and your employer.
Does it make sense to purchase an expensive piece of test equipment without properly training your people on how and where to use it? Of course not! But you’d be surprised how often this happens. Some facilities have very expensive test instruments sitting on a shelf collecting dust because the one guy who knew how to operate it left the company, and no one else was ever trained on how to use it.
A “smart” instrument won’t be nearly as valuable in the hands of an untrained or less experienced person. This is why it’s crucial for you to do whatever you can to understand the full function and capability of all types of test equipment at your disposal. You can accomplish this through in-house training programs or online training modules and platforms. It’s also important for you to push your company to support other types of training, such as in-person events hosted by manufacturers, distributors, or for-profit training companies.
But no discussion on the topic of the human side of electrical testing and measurement would be complete without making mention of personal safety. I read far too many news reports and accident investigations that discuss the severe injury or death of those working on electrical equipment. Anyone doing work on or near electrical equipment today should be intimately familiar with all facets of NFPA 70E, “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” and NFPA 70B, “Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment.” The most recent revisions to these two standards highlight the importance of properly maintained equipment. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d feel much more comfortable performing tests on a piece of equipment that had been properly maintained and inspected over the years over one that had been ignored and neglected