Reduce the Risk of Arc Flash With a Reliable and Repeatable Repair and Preventative Maintenance Program

The importance of preventative maintenance programs can’t be understated. Especially when it comes to reducing the risk for arc flash. Accuracy and repeatability are critical to any machine operation, but that also applies to the preventative maintenance program itself. Facility and safety managers understand that repeatability makes work easier to implement.

Even the most conservative estimates say that there are up to five arc flash explosions occurring in electric equipment every day in the United States. Even more electrical incidents happen daily, but there are ways companies can significantly reduce the occurrence of these incidents to create a safer workplace.

Preventative maintenance can increase machine reliability, which decreases the need to access that equipment for repairs. This, in effect, increases overall plant safety when machines and equipment are operating as planned without the need for unscheduled maintenance. NFPA standard 70B outlines the best practices for setting up and maintaining an Electrical Preventive Maintenance (EPM) program. Additionally, the InterNational Electrical Testing Association (NETA) offers tremendous resources on preventative maintenance with their PowerTest Conference seminars.

An effective Electrical Preventive Maintenance (EPM) program helps avoid extra expenses, disruptions and potentially lost profits that may result from equipment breakdown or an arc flash. Typically, in setting up an EPM, it begins at the main service entrance and works its way through the electrical distribution system to automation and controls all the way to the machine level.

There are a variety of reasons why an arc flash may occur; it could be an accumulation of conductive dust inside an enclosure or purely equipment failure – likely the result of inadequate maintenance. In short, if electrical equipment is not maintained, then something is going to give.

An effective means of preventing electrical incidents and arc flashes is the anticipation and elimination of the conditions that may cause them. Spotting potential signs of an electrical failure include:

  • Identifying and repairing compromised insulation before it fails.
    Predictive maintenance systems can provide early warning of insulation degradation or failure. Visual inspections of the condition of insulation and electrical joints should be conducted whenever maintenance is performed.
  • Monitoring electrical equipment at critical joints including, lugs and compression fittings.
    Over time, heat cycles and vibration can loosen connections which can cause overheating and may lead to an arc flash. Thermal sensors can help monitor these critical joints.
  • Using infrared windows.
    Using infrared thermal scanning through IR windows enable technicians to perform scans without removing equipment covers or opening doors, lessening the likelihood of arc flash events caused by accidental contact and exposure.

It should go without saying, that before performing any electrical work in any form of maintenance, that it’s important to de-energize the equipment and verify that an electrically safe work condition has been established.

Verifying absence of voltage is important and the testing method to work on de-energized equipment must also be safe and effective. The electrical worker who conducts the testing needs to understand testing procedures and be repeatedly proficient with the testing devices.

Verifying the absence of voltage with the Panduit VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester before equipment is accessed makes it easy to verify that an electrically safe work condition has been established without exposure to hazards.

The results of having a reliable electrical safety and preventative maintenance program will reduce risk, minimize business interruptions and even extend the life of your plant’s electrical equipment.

Understanding Electrical Safety in Today’s Changing Landscape

Being able to identify electrical hazards and having tools, safety procedures and instructions available to mitigate risk is essential to ensuring safety.

 

It’s important to have a workforce that understands how keeping up with the times is paramount to staying safe in the workplace. Much can said about the importance of creating an electrically-safe workplace, but it is the responsibility of any employer to provide a safe environment, free of hazards to its employees.

In 2015, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) created an accreditation, the “Certified Electrical Safety Worker (CESW)” certification program, which was based on the most current edition of NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. The program ensures that electricians have the knowledge, training and experience to perform their jobs at the highest, safest level possible. Obviously, one key to safety during times of change is keeping aligned with consensus standards, which the NEC and NFPA updates every three years. Below are changes any plant might encounter and thus has a need to be prepared for.

VeriSafe – Absence of Voltage Tester

Changes in Standards
As safety standards evolve, so too must the company and its workforce. The latest release of the NFPA 70E-2018, includes updates that are essential for the company and its employees to understand. When NFPA 70E released its 2018 update, a new exception was included that allows Absence of Voltage Testers (AVTs) listed to UL 1436 to be used to verify the absence of voltage instead of a handheld voltmeter. Changes to consensus standards can take safety at a facility from good to great.

Changes in the Plant
When business grows, the facility grows. New machines are added, the electrical capacity needs grow, and thus an increased need for overall, plant-wide electrical safety grows. Sometimes, there can be an overcrowding in electrical rooms and production areas with added equipment. Other times, challenges are created when multiple suppliers of equipment create anomalies. While codes and standards evolve, and as equipment is added, there can be these compatibility issues. Standardizing processes and procedures can help minimize or prevent human error. Panduit provides solutions for the electrical infrastructure that can help bridge multiple equipment manufacturers or areas of equipment as additions take place. The VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester is compatible across many equipment types and manufacturers, provided the specifications have been met.

Changes in Plant Operations and Performance 
The rise in automation in plants today is proof that the robots are here. The qualified electrical worker meets all of the training requirements set by NFPA 70E and OSHA, and as a general rule, each qualified electrical worker may need several days of training each year to maintain the level of skill. It may be a good idea to plan for that training over a three-year period – which helps to ensure that the qualification process continues to track changing requirements. It’s possible that effective training may be something that is repeated in different formats periodically in order to keep if fresh and top-of-mind. This may toggle between classroom instruction, hands-on skills demonstration and audits.

New equipment brings new types of hazards and risks. Being able to identify these hazards and having tools, safety procedures and instructions available to mitigate risk is essential to ensuring safety. Perhaps even more game-changing than automation is the availability of connectivity and networking on the plant floor. This allows safety procedures to become more connected and integrated into workflow with the ability to track and log tasks, as well as access to video for training and recording purposes.