February 8, 2011
Avoiding Electrical Dangers in Industrial & Manufacturing Facilities
Preventative maintenance is crucial for electrical systems and equipment because unplanned downtime can be extremely costly. Maintaining an electrical power distribution system in an industrial setting is a very complex process though. Systems and equipment are unique to each facility, and industrial plants face different challenges than institutional, commercial, or large multi-family residential complexes.
Personnel who maintain electrical power distribution systems need special qualifications and knowledge in order to safely and properly perform their work. In many cases, information and instructions are manufacturer or model specific, so specialized training, tools, and equipment are needed to properly and consistently identify the ‘invisible’ hazards of shock, arc flash and arc blast.
Each time work is to be performed on or near live electrical equipment, a Task Safety Analysis (sometimes called a Job Safety Analysis) should be completed to identify all potential hazards and communicate appropriate safety procedures to each individual who will be involved with the work. The Task Safety Analysis is incorporated into a live work permitting process to ensure employees only perform work within the vicinity of exposed energized components when it is absolutely necessary and only with written authorization.
System designs will impact employee safety. When an electrical system is designed, it should be created with the maintenance tasks and personnel in mind. The best way to protect its employees is to design the system so that it doesn’t require personnel to work on or near live parts for routine tasks. Lockout-Tagout programs must be reviewed annually and with each equipment change to ensure employees have effective means of controlling hazardous energy sources (don’t forget possible sources of induced voltages or stored electrical energy).
Full electrical safety related work practices can be found in NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Electrical maintenance guidelines are contained within the companion standard, NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. Over the past few years, OSHA has issued numerous citations for employers who don’t comply with these standards with many citations exceeding $100,000. Are you adequately prepared to avoid serious injuries, OSHA fines, and costly downtime?