A New Approach to an Old Problem

An installed VeriSafe - Absence of Voltage Tester in an electrical enclosure.

The shortcomings of permanently installed voltage indicators led Panduit to create a new and innovative product: the VeriSafe – Absence of Voltage Tester.

The Absence of Voltage Tester (AVT) is a relatively new innovation. As we see it, it’s a new approach to an old problem.

Unlike traditional voltage testers, the AVT is not portable. It is installed in the equipment it is testing. An AVT can be used to determine if and when a circuit part is de-energized prior to opening doors and removing covers from electrical equipment. An AVT will automate the functions of handheld voltage testers for this specific task and will display information about the status of voltage inside equipment without exposure to electrical hazards.

AVTs are entirely different in function, and far more comprehensive than voltage indicators. Although they are both permanently mounted devices, voltage indicators merely provide a visual representation when voltage is present, they are not capable of testing for, nor indicating that, a de-energized condition exists. For instance, if a voltage indicator is not illuminated, it may be because the system is de-energized, but it could also be due to a device failure, an installation failure (if the device becomes disconnected from the wiring, it will not detect voltage), or an indicator (e.g., LED) failure. These are some of the reasons permanently installed voltage indicators were never recognized by OSHA as an alternative to the voltmeter test.

The shortcomings of permanently installed voltage indicators helped bring attention to an industry need and led Panduit create a new and innovative product. An AVT now provides a quick and reliable means of verifying the absence of voltage – a big win on safety and time savings for the electrical worker.

AVTs are defined in a new product listing category that was added to UL 1436, the Standard for Outlet Circuit Testers and Similar Indicating Devices, in September 2016. With the addition of these new requirements, products can now be listed and labeled as an absence of voltage tester. AVT listing requirements were brought about by research presented at the 2016 IEEE Electrical Safety Workshop on electrical injuries that occurred while voltage testing. Because there were no installed devices designed specifically to test for the absence of voltage, unique listing requirements for such a product were not addressed by standards for other product categories. Recognizing this, UL set out to define requirements and identify the best place to publish them. Ultimately, UL 1436 was selected because its scope included other installed testers and it could be revised in a timeframe that coincided with the NFPA 70E 2018 revision cycle, which was also considering provisions for AVTs.

Today, the AVT is truly a new approach to an old problem – and, it’s one that enables user to comply with the new requirements for verifying the absence of voltage in the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E.

The Top 5 Reasons for Modernizing Your Electrical Safety Program

Updated safety standards provide opportunities to modernize your electrical safety program.

In your plant, there’s a good chance your facility’s electrical equipment is constantly being changed or updated (moves and adds) and maybe even improved. Thus, your electrical safety program should also address these changes.

In keeping up with new technology and evolving safety concerns, safety standards are periodically revised. Updated standards should be viewed as a benefit to facility and safety managers, bringing opportunities to modernized your electrical safety program and to stay up to date on existing trends in electrical safety.

Below, we outline the top five reasons for modernizing your electrical safety program:

1. Changes in standards.
If there’s ever a constant, it is change. The NFPA Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace (NFPA 70E), is updated every three years. While NFPA 70E isn’t adopted into federal law or OSHA regulation, but OSHA has a history of citing it as a best practice when electrical incidents occur.

OSHA’s general duty clause requires employers (your facility) to provide employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” Because OSHA regulations are not frequently updated, they will often reference consensus standards (like NFPA 70E) as a best practice when issuing citations to the general duty clause.

Therefore, even though NFPA 70E is a voluntary standard, and compliance is not required by law, it effectively describes electrical hazards and best practices to mitigate them. Thus, failure to comply with this or similar guidelines can result in OSHA citations.

2. Training will always be important.
For any worker who may exposed to electrical hazards, training is key. Employees performing electrical work need to understand the requirements of the electrical safety program, including the ability to recognize electrical hazards, know safe work practices and the procedures for protection against these hazards.

Non-electrical workers should also be trained to identify electrical hazards and recognize when electrical work is being performed so they do not put themselves or the electrical workers at risk. Training should be ongoing—do not underestimate the importance of retraining. Workers leave, new workers are added, and sometimes people simply forget what they have learned or they may become complacent as tasks become routine.

Additionally, retraining is important if you consider the Normalization of Deviance phenomenon, which is described as “when people within the organization become so much accustomed to a deviant behavior that they don’t consider it as deviant, despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules for the elementary safety.”

3. Facility updates and new equipment.
Electrical equipment in a facility is often moved, added, or reconfigured to keep up with changing production demands. Often, these changes may include updates to safety technology. Thus, the electrical safety program should be updated to address those changes.

So, when new equipment is added, a circuit is moved, protective devices get replaced or settings are changed and, generally, when any electrical wiring or cables) are modified in any way, it’s time to update your arc flash hazard analysis and revisit the safety program.

Retrofits and additions to existing equipment or reconfiguration of lines, are also a great time to evaluate if new electrical safety technology can be incorporated and will signal it’s time to update the electrical safety program.

4. Near misses.
According to the National Safety Council, almost 75% of all accidents are preceded by a near miss. It’s important to document and record near misses, minor accidents and close calls, especially those that have the potential for injury.

The overall safety culture in the facility gets stronger when reporting near misses are encouraged and not punished. If it’s not reported, the opportunity to mitigate hazards by taking corrective actions, including updates to the electrical safety program, are missed.

5. Employee and facility worker expansion.
A modern electrical safety program is all about teamwork. When a facility’s employee base has grown and/or when shifts are added, it’s a good opportunity to take the time to update the electrical safety program to demonstrate to employees – new and old – that the safety culture is strong.

Converse to expansion, if a plant experiences a reduction in staff, or significant employee turnover, this can lead to employees being asked to do other tasks for which they may not be adequately trained.

Therefore, changes that also affect the workforce should be a reminder to revisit the electrical safety program to assure that all workers are not only properly trained, but understand their roles in advancing the safety culture.

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.

From Problem to Solution: NFPA 70E and the VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester

The VeriSafe – Absence of Voltage Tester (AVT) from Panduit supports compliance in the lockout/tagout process described in NFPA 70E.

 

Electrical workers must comply with safety regulations that require a voltage verification test before servicing electrical equipment. NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, addresses best practices for protecting employees from electrical hazards through the use of safety programs, hazard and risk identification, training, and procedures.

One of the best ways to protect workers is to isolate the electrical supply, follow lockout and tagout procedures, and verify the equipment is de-energized before any electrical work is performed. Until now, this process has been complex and time-consuming, fraught with possibilities for human error and potential exposure to hazards.

The verification step often puts electrical workers at risk for exposure to electrical hazards while testing a handheld tester on a known voltage source, testing for absence of voltage phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground inside the equipment, and re-testing the tester to ensure it is still functioning properly.

Until these steps have been completed, it is best to assume the equipment may be energized and take all necessary precautions including use of adequate personal protective equipment.

In the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E, a new exception was included in Article 120.5(7) that offers an alternative to the traditional hand-held testers method used to verify the absence of voltage: the option to use a permanently mounted device.

The permanently mounted test device can be used to test the conductors and circuit parts at the point of work before the equipment is accessed preventing exposure to electrical hazards. These permanently mounted devices must be installed at the point of work in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, listed and labeled for the purpose of verifying the absence of voltage, and satisfy additional requirements outlined in the standard.

The permanently mounted test device is different from the test portal interface that is sometimes used with a handheld voltage tester. Although the test portals reduce exposure when verifying the absence of voltage, this process– working with hand tools via a portal – does not meet the requirements of the new Exception 1 in 120.5(7) because:

  • It is not listed for the purpose of verifying the absence of voltage
  • There is no way to confirm that the probes of the tester are actually in direct contact with the electrical conductors inside the enclosure at the time of the test
  • They bring hazardous voltage to the door

An example of a permanently mounted device that does meet the requirements of NPFA 70E is the absence of voltage tester (AVT).

The VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester from Panduit is specifically designed to verify the absence of voltage and fully complies with the new NFPA 70E standard. This ultimately simplifies the testing process and reduces risk for the qualified worker performing electrical work.

Automating this process with the VeriSafe AVT:

  • Reduces testing procedure time and complexity
  • Reduces the risk of exposure to electrical hazards
  • Supports compliance in the lockout/tagout process described in NFPA 70E

A facility’s electrical infrastructure is a top priority. With more than 60 years of infrastructure expertise, Panduit is committed to developing innovative solutions to help companies achieve their operational goals, reduce risk, and increase electrical safety.

Learn more about the VeriSafe - Absence of Voltage Tester here: www.panduit.com/verisafe

New NFPA 70E Labeling Requirements

The NFPA 70E Standard provides guidelines for electrical safety in the workplace. Recently this standard has been updated to provide consistency of terms with other standards that address hazards and risk.

Some of these changes introduced new terms such as arc flash risk assessment to replace arc flash analysis and shock risk assessment to replace shock hazard analysis.

Determining the Arc Flash Risk Assessment and Shock Risk Assessment for electrical devices provides important information to warn of the specific risks associated with an energized piece of equipment. This information is communicated to workers through the use of equipment labels.

In Section 130.5(D) of the 2015 NFPA 70E Standard new requirements for Arc Flash Warning Labels are explained.

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