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Working with Self-Contained Meters

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize that failure to work with meters safely can lead to injury or death, as well as damage to equipment and property
  • Identify types of meters and how electricity usage is measured
  • Describe the roles of employees who work with meters
  • Identify the electrical hazards associated with meters
  • Explain the hazards of not communicating with customers, and of wasps and snakes nesting in meters

Available in English

20 minutes

Mobile Ready


As much as 80% of all electrical injuries are burns resulting from arc flash. On average, 2,000 workers are killed by arc flash each year, according OSHA.


Utilities are continually engaged in connecting, disconnecting, and exchanging various types of electric meters in order to efficiently meet customer needs. Regardless of the specific metering assignment, employees must follow a four-step process prior to performing any actual meter work.

First, notwithstanding the purpose of the visit by metering personnel, the customer must be contacted and informed about what’s happening, to prevent confusion and related incidents. Sudden loss of electric service for reasons other than unpredictable emergencies or accidents could result in unintentional harm to a customer and legal action being taken against the company. Everybody should be on the same page and to achieve that level of communication, ‘good faith’ attempts to notify customers are to be made.

Second, any actions involving the exchange of a meter or the connection or disconnection of service to a meter, requires that all load to that meter be removed first, if at all possible.  In cases where the meter cannot be bypassed, this requirement is best resolved during the first contact with the customer. It’s possible that the customer may require certain preparation before a no-load condition can be implemented.

The third step involves verifying the address of the customer and the meter number assigned to that address. 

Fourth and finally, once the load has been removed from the meter being worked on, personnel are required to use the appropriate eye protection, and gloves, while performing the work—that’s the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for this work.

Best Practices for Performing Metering Work

In cases where a kilowatt per hour meter is being installed or removed, workers must always use the plastic meter safety device when it will fit the meter. This device is placed over the meter and attaches to its base, with the plastic cover sliding over the transparent portion. In the event that the meter shorts and explodes, the glass and other debris is contained. The device also sports a handle for ease of operation.

It’s important to realize that under most circumstances, meter readings of digital displays must be taken from energized meters. These types include: time-of-use meters (pause), solid-state demand recorders, and electronic demand meters. Meters that don’t rely on digital displays can be read even when they are de-energized, since their indicators maintain their last physical positions even after power is removed.

When connecting or disconnecting services, metering employees must consider the ownership of the various disconnects that may be employed during their work. If a company-owned disconnect exists ahead of a target meter, it may be used for either meter exchanges or connect/disconnect assignments. It may also be used as a permanent disconnect device, if that situation is required.

However, whenever a customer’s disconnect device is employed to drop the load during disconnect/connect, or a meter exchange, it cannot be considered as a permanent disconnect device under any circumstances. In fact, a customer’s disconnect device must be employed by the customer at the utility’s request.

Another situation requiring clarification involves a socket that’s equipped with a plunger-type bypass. If work is occurring between the meter socket and the customer’s disconnect, a plunger-type bypass cannot be employed. Under these circumstances, and without exception, the service to the meter must be de-energized before any work is done.

When preparing to work on a meter that’s servicing an idle account, personnel must check to see if a disconnection exists at the point-of-delivery, or POD. If the idle account remains connected at the POD, the service must either be de-energized, or have its entire load cleared prior to sleeve removal or meter exchange. Exceptions to this approach are when network meters, or single-phase, self-contained meters are being serviced.

When disconnecting single-phase services, metering personnel must be able to differentiate between two major types of meter sockets. One type of socket is outfitted with manual bypass levers, while a second type of socket is not. If the socket being serviced is not equipped with a manual bypass, then meter disconnect sleeves must be installed on the bottom terminals of the meter.

When disconnecting single-phase services that are equipped with manual bypass levers, you must disconnect or de-energize the service at the source. This is done by disconnecting the voltage from the utility’s facilities at the service weatherhead, underground pedestal or transformer. Failure to do this could allow an experienced customer to use the bypass lever to receive additional service even after the utility has determined that the service should be discontinued.

Course Outline
  • Introduction
  • Meter Basics
  • Meter Roles
  • Meter Base Safety Check-Out
  • Other Meter Hazards
Regulations
  • 29 CFR 1910.269
  • NESC Consensus Standard