One-Step Automation to Supersede Multiple Manual Tests

Machine-driven outages at the factory are an expensive spanner in the works, so planned maintenance shutdown is critical in limiting machine glitches and production downtime. But in practice, equipment servicing isn’t always as frequently or regularly scheduled as desired. Why? Because planned servicing can be very resource taxing to the business.

Turnaround maintenance is highly orchestrated endeavor, as different internal teams, third-party technicians and contractors work concurrently on multiple machines for diverse servicing. An incident at any point in the operation can significantly impact turnaround cost, speed and safety.

Factory owners and operators will be pleased to know that machine maintenance just got easier. Panduit’s new VeriSafe absence of voltage tester (AVT) is bringing NFPA 70E-compliant automated testing and verification of energy discharge for lockout safety – to supersede the lengthy and complex manual tests – in as little as 10 seconds, and at no risk to the user.

5 Reasons Why VeriSafe Automatically Supersedes the Manual Process

1. Standardized and consistent testing
Manual testing is conducted on handheld tools, such as non-contact voltage tester for the first test, a digital, non-solenoid, electrical tester for the second test and a multi-meter with a low-impedance for live-dead-live test, and results can vary depending which tool the electrician chooses, his familiarity with its use, whether the tool is correctly used, and what is its state of maintenance and calibration as the time of use.

VeriSafe however, is permanently mounted on the electrical enclosure of the machine and will consistently run the standardized test sequence when activated – which automatically verifies the phase conductor or circuit part for both phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground, as well as check for both AC and DC voltage as a standard.

2. No exposure to electrical hazards
On the handheld process, the electrician can only know if energy discharge is successful after opening the electrical enclosure and going through the respective tests in exacting steps. But that means putting himself at risk of an arc flash upon opening of the enclosure, if the level of voltage present is still sufficiently high.

VeriSafe has provisions to ensure direct contact with the circuit at time of testing, while preventing hazardous voltage from reaching the mounted surface by way of an isolation module. Because the push button sits at the outside of the enclosure, the user will not be exposed to electrical hazards when activating the process.

3. Easy testing in difficult-to-access locations
It is cumbersome and time-consuming for electricians to test for absence of voltage in hard-to-reach enclosures, or in crowded or complex layouts that make using handhelds difficult. VeriSafe’s flexibility for different mounting and testing/detection applications makes it much easier to work in the tightest of spaces – which is also a significant advantage in shop floor design, as having more compliant options for placing capital assets means facility layout can be made more efficient.

4. Streamlined and simplified testing
The manual verification process is complicated, including different steps and checks within the general process to:

1. Select the tester
2. Test the tester
3. Check for voltage
4. Retest the tester
5. Perform work

VeriSafe begins with a simple activation and ends with the green light to open the panel, as the middle steps are completely automated based on the recommendations of NFPA 70E.

5. Error-less process
The problem with manual testing is the potential for errors that ranges the gamut, from human oversights and mistakes, to instrumentation fault, to possible missteps or omissions in the testing sequence, and more. Such is the over reliance on the electrician’s experience and skill to complete the job, which cannot be a comforting thought for the said worker, the maintenance staff, or the company.

VeriSafe’s automated process and single step activation are standardized to avoid missteps in execution and sequence. It is further constructed to resist factors that could affect its accuracy and functionality – such as mechanical or electrical failures from wear, mechanical shock and environmental extremes.

Safer Absence of Voltage Testing Begins with Simplicity

VeriSafe – Absence of Voltage Tester

There’s an interesting new exception in the 2018 edition of the tri-yearly NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace for the use of an Absence of Voltage Tester (AVT) in place of handheld instruments.

In Asia Pacific, NFPA is the commonly referenced standard for mitigating electrical hazards in lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) practices. This exception opens plants and factories in the region to new opportunities in improving safety programs and planned maintenance efficiency.

Here’s why.

In factory machine servicing, the LOTO guidelines protect maintenance staff from electrical hazards, by mandating that an electrical professional first verify the absence of voltage, before maintenance, service or inspection work can begin. However, the guidelines don’t articulate the removal of the hazard, only in transferring the risk from the maintenance staff to the electrician.

This is not an ideal workaround, as no one knows if the energy discharge has been successful without first opening the electrical enclosure for tests. As such, the risk of the electrician getting a painful electrical shock or even dangerous arc flash, remains.

The beauty of an AVT then, is in how it overcomes the dilemma.

Panduit has recently released the first full-featured AVT product to general availability, and it is game-changing in its innovative approach to an old problem.

Called VeriSafe, the SIL rated, NFPA 70E-2018 120.5 (7) Exception 1 compliant AVT is permanently installed on the electrical enclosure of the equipment that it is testing for. Sitting on the panel door between the circuit and the outside of the enclosure, the self-contained unit consists of a testing and isolation component on the inside of the door, and a push button that faces externally.

The user pushes the button to activate the device, which runs an automated sequence of in-built pre-/post-verification tests, such as phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground testing for AC and DC voltage – to arrive at an active indication in as quickly as ten seconds!

What’s more, VeriSafe ships with a connectivity option as a standard. This allows smart facilities that run software management systems to draw essential logs and alerts from a connected VeriSafe device in real-time.

To plants and factories, safety pays. Electrical injuries can account for one of the highest average workers’ compensation costs, second only to motor vehicle accidents. Although estimates vary, studies indicate the average direct cost of an electrical injury ranges US$50,000 to $80,000, while indirect cost can exceed these numbers by a factor of nearly four, to include:

• Wages paid during work stoppage
• Administrative costs related to injury
• Property damage and repair
• Training and compensation for replacement workers
• Lost productivity with less experienced workers
• Lost productivity from low staff morale
• Fines related to workplace safety violations
• Potential increase in absenteeism

Because VeriSafe diffuses electrical risks right at the start, every potential incident avoided can translate to massive savings from side stepping a string of personal injury, and property and equipment damage costs.

VeriSafe also makes the absence of voltage testing more accurate and far less risky than the manual process – as its standardized, compliant and automated approach leaves little room for error on an effectively reduced workflow. With VeriSafe AVT installed in all high-risk machinery, large-scale facility lifecycle management activities can experience a cumulation of cost and time savings, to significantly benefit high-pressure events, such as a maintenance turnaround.

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How Capturing Near Misses Can Put Facility Safety Managers Ahead of the Game

What is good safety practice today? Recording near misses.

The generally-accepted definition of a near miss is: “An unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness or damage – but had the potential to do so.” In terms of smart business choices, it’s important for company leadership to establish a near miss reporting culture. This kind of safety culture will, in time and in practice, reinforce the opportunity to identify hazards. And, when the hazards are known, action can be taken to mitigate them.

Encouraging employees to participate in recording near miss events doesn’t have to be a challenge. If the practice of making these records comes without blame or negative consequences, then employees are more likely to report. It’s common for employees to be cautious or even afraid to report near misses. Either they may not want to admit a mistake in following safety procedures or they may believe they could be mistakenly accused of some wrongdoing. To have an effective near-miss reporting program, the stigma of blame should be eliminated.

For a near-miss reporting structure to work well, employers need to create a safety culture and a comfortable atmosphere. The goal is to make employees so comfortable with the process that they will report electrical near misses nearly as freely as they might report that a hallway needs to be cleaned or that a hazard sign needs to be replaced.

For a safety manager to keep ahead of the game, it’s important to understand that near misses can lead to the identification of a hazard. Ultimately, identifying a near miss also allows the root cause to be determined. Once this is identified, corrective action or mitigation steps can be taken to prevent any additional incidents from occurring. This results in avoiding potentially serious injuries and disruptions to operations.

Near misses are common and many consider to be underreported within industry. They also occur with relative frequency in handheld voltage testing, which should further urge a safety manager to create a way to capture the near miss incidents. If knowledge is power, then learning from experience is even more powerful. In a case from the 1997 paper, “Personnel Safety and Plant Reliability Considerations in the Selection and Use of Voltage Test Instruments,” an error in reading the digital display of a multimeter was noted. As the case details: An electrician familiar with an analog multimeter was given a new digital multimeter. When he encountered an over range condition on a voltage measurement application, he interpreted an “OL,” or over-range, indication to mean “zero,” or no voltage present. This misunderstanding of the instrument indication could have resulted in a serious, perhaps fatal, accident.

This near miss demonstrates the importance of managing tools used to carry out a particular task. Facility and safety management should work together to develop a system to manage selection, purchase, training, maintenance, and operation of all safety and test instruments used in the workplace.”

In the 2018 paper, Electrical Investigations: Case Studies, Common Electrical Safety Mistakes, and Lessons Learned , an incident is recalled whereby improper tool usage proves a weakness in relying on portable voltage testers. This case study reveals that an electrician was removing a fluorescent ceiling light fixture and was asked if he had de-energized the circuit. The electrician indicated that he had used his non-contact voltage probe instead of a digital multimeter. The electrician was asked if the voltage probe he was using had feedback to the user to indicate that the battery was good. He indicated no but added that he had replaced the batteries that morning. The voltage probe indicated that the light fixture was de-energized, but when the electrician began removing the fixture he experienced a shock. An investigator that was on site at the time asked him to check the voltage again with a digital multimeter, which confirmed that the circuit was still energized.

Again, these examples indicate the importance of selecting the right tool for the job. A dedicated voltage tester, like an AVT, can eliminate these types of process failure modes by providing a simplified output with a dedicated indicator.