If you or a family member needed serious surgery or medical care, you would want the doctor to be Board Certified.

Sure, anybody who has graduated from medical school is a physician – they can put the letters M.D. (or D.O.) after their name. However, to practice medicine in the United States, they must first become licensed in the state in which they work.

Moreover, being licensed alone doesn't indicate whether a doctor is qualified to practice in a given medical specialty.

One of the best ways to know if your doctor has the qualifications to provide care in a specialty is to find out whether they are Board Certified and participating in activities that allow them to stay up to date with the latest advances in medicine and patient care.

The same holds true when selecting an electrical safety equipment test lab. But while 87% of physicians in the United States are board certified, not all test labs are NAIL4PET-certified.

Rubber Insulating Product Regulations

OSHA rules and NFPA standards make the use of rubber insulating products mandatory when there exists even the smallest probability of contact with 50 volts AC or higher. These rules affect nearly every industrial workplace, as every single facility (including utility contractors and general contractors) requires electrical safety and arc flash protection. Failure to comply can result in heavy fines, serious injury, and even death.

OSHA and ASTM standards also require regular inspection and testing of in-service electrical protective equipment in order to maintain compliance and ensure the safety and integrity of the products when exposed to a wide range of voltages.

Testing Requirements

Various ASTM Manufacturing and Acceptance standards mandate the testing of the rubber insulating products by the manufacturer or supplier prior to the first delivery to the end user.

Users also have the option of performing or requiring an acceptance test upon receipt of the goods and prior to placing rubber insulating products into service.

Once placed in service, there are periodic re-test intervals specified in the following ASTM standards:

  • ASTM F496-08 Rubber Insulating Gloves – 6 months (under certain conditions, this can increase to 9 months)
  • ASTM F496-08 Rubber Insulating Sleeves – 12 months
  • ASTM F479-06 Rubber Insulating Blankets – 12 months
  • ASTM F478-09 Line Hose & Covers – when field inspection or company policy warrant

These in-service re-test intervals are the maximum permitted and are performed in addition to daily field care and inspection. It is quite common for users, including power utilities and contractors, to specify shorter intervals.

Re-Testing

Re-testing is a critical component to electrical safety. Not only does it help maintain compliance, but it also increases savings. Rubber insulating products are costly, and these costs are often unnecessarily increased by purchasing replacements for products that could have remained in service with the proper testing and re-certification.

Periodic testing of rubber insulating equipment should be performed at its proof-test voltage to ensure that they are still safe for use by using specialized equipment designed to gradually increase the voltage to the desired test level.

The dielectric test is two-fold:

  1. Pass/fail testing on the ability to withstand the rated test voltage
  2. For gloves, quantitative testing on the ability to prevent electric current from passing through the rubber goods above the maximums listed in the specifications

Products that pass the inspection and test procedures can then be returned to service.

Testing Procedure

At a minimum, ASTM standards require that the inspection and testing process include the following steps:

  1. Check-in
  2. Removing previous testing marking
  3. Washing with cleaning agents that will not degrade the insulating properties
  4. Visual inspection (inside and out)
  5. Electrical test
  6. Final inspection
  7. Recordkeeping
  8. Marking
  9. Packing in appropriate containers for storage or shipment

("Appropriate containers" means boxes or other packaging material that is sturdy enough to prevent folding.)

If you do not have the equipment required to perform these electrical tests, there are independent testing facilities that can perform the acceptance and in-service testing on behalf of end users. A qualified electrical testing laboratory helps ensure that the rubber products are safe and effective for their intended use.

Selecting the Right Testing Facility

When selecting a test lab, make sure that it is NAIL-accredited. The National Association of Independent Laboratories for Protective Equipment Testing (NAIL or NAIL4PET) incorporates the only Laboratory Accreditation for the electrical equipment test labs program in North America that meets ASTM criteria. The criteria include:

  • Laboratory facility
  • Equipment
  • Staff training and knowledge
  • Quality control work procedures

What Makes NAIL Labs the Best Choice

NAIL4PET assists in developing uniformity in testing and works in close association with ASTM International and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). For that reason, test labs that complete and maintain the rigorous standards demanded from NAIL help ensure worker safety and good standing with legislative bodies.

NAIL also sponsors an annual forum where members come together to communicate, discuss mutual challenges, and work toward effective solutions. Furthermore, NAIL helps its members stay informed regarding new government regulations while encouraging its member organizations to act collectively and individually to protect the integrity of the profession of independent test labs.

Conclusion

So, when your workers’ lives and safety are on the line, wouldn’t you feel more comfortable knowing that the products they are wearing to protect them electrical hazards were tested by a NAIL-accredited test lab?

All in all, NAIL acts as an industry seal of approval for quality assurance in testing labs. Independent test facilities operating without NAIL accreditation are not monitored to ensure they follow industry best practices. A NAIL-accredited testing facility, however, has undergone regular audits to ensure their strict adherence to industry standards.