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.