What Are Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices [EMSD]?

Your company decided to switch from a calendar-based maintenance program to a condition-based maintenance program for all electrical assets with a go-live date in 120 days. During a maintenance team meeting, your supervisor stated that electrical maintenance safety devices will be utilized in the new condition-based maintenance program. Various members of the team asked, “What are electrical maintenance safety devices?”

cap-b-inuse-1Companies have always searched for ways to mitigate risk, reduce operating costs and increase productivity. Companies in industries like power generation, marine and maritime, processing and manufacturing, mining and data centers have numerous electrical assets on-site to maintain operations. A subset of these assets is critical to operations – they usually do not have a backup system and, if they fail, it can cause catastrophic situations. As a result, companies adopt a condition-based maintenance program using critical asset surveillance technologies to predict when an asset will fail and implement preventive repairs before the failure takes place.

Electrical equipment requires periodic maintenance to maintain normal operations. These inspections must often be performed on the assets operating under full load conditions. The inspections require direct access or direct line of sight to the energized components inside the electrical system. Traditionally, these inspections were time-intensive and required access panels to be opened which can be extremely dangerous to the personnel performing the inspection. The inherent safety risk as well as time and cost requirements needed to perform these inspections often led management to push out or cancel a maintenance schedule which could lead to catastrophic asset failures causing downtime and, sometimes severe injury or loss of life.

Innovative technologies have emerged that improve the efficiency of electrical inspections by using electrical maintenance safety devices [EMSD]. EMSDs maintain an energized compartment’s closed and guarded condition during the inspection process thereby reducing the time needed to complete the inspection and ensuring that the inspectors are not put at risk. These devices allow for more frequent inspections leading to the creation of asset health history files and the capability of performing data trend analyses on the assets. What better way to monitor the health of electrical assets over time, determine when an asset is at higher risk of failing and pre-planning preventive maintenance tasks to fix that asset! Think about the impact EMSDs have on risk mitigation, reducing downtime, reducing operating costs, avoiding unnecessary failure costs and improving productivity.

Proactive vs. Reactive


Types of EMSD Devices

Some EMSDs add efficiency and safety to the inspection and maintenance processes while others provide continuous monitoring to detect problems earlier. Some track equipment maintenance data helping the team determine trends and patterns.

1. Infrared Windows: windows placed at inspection points like cable connections enable viewing in the visual, ultraviolet, shortwave, midwave and longwave IR spectrums

2. Ultrasonic Ports and Detectors: used to detect partial discharge associated with arcing and tracking in electrical distribution systems and switchgear

3. Online Monitoring Systems: continuous temperature, power quality, ultrasound, Partial Discharge (PD) or vibration monitoring devices detect early warning signs

4. Intelligent Asset Tags: provides historical data to the inspector so that asset tracking, maintenance history and trend analysis are available at the time of inspection


As electrical systems become more complicated, companies must update and revise their electrical maintenance processes. They cannot afford unplanned failures leading to downtime, nor can they afford the downtime required to perform traditional inspections. Improved operational reliability and productivity can be accomplished by implementing an inspection strategy that uses electrical maintenance safety devices [EMSDs] to monitor, maintain and anticipate problems with their electrical systems.

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What Are Critical Asset Surveillance Technologies [CAST]?

Have you ever been chartered with managing risk of the critical assets at your place of employment? The risks you may have to manage could be employee safety as they interact with the assets or maybe mitigation of asset downtime and failure rates. What do you do? How should you approach this task of preventing a problem before it occurs? Adopting a Critical Asset Surveillance Technology [CAST] program may be the solution.

sonus xt

In today’s business world, it is mission critical that a company introduce programs and procedures to try to accomplish zero events of employee injuries or death and zero events of operational downtime. Why? Because these events, should they occur, can cost companies billions of dollars in worker compensation fines, life insurance payouts, lawsuits or lost revenue if operations are suddenly interrupted by an unplanned maintenance event.

Is it possible to mitigate risk? Can I increase the reliability of my operations? In a previous blog, we defined what a condition-based maintenance program was and how companies are using this program to manage the health of their critical assets. CAST is a huge element within a condition-based maintenance program. A Critical Asset Surveillance Technology program is defined as “risk based” condition inspections of assets. It is a total surveillance repair maintenance model – find the problem before the asset fails and fix it. CAST surveillance enables employees to frequently inspect and determine the condition of the assets compared to predetermined alarm limits and if needed, perform remedial preventive maintenance in a scheduled, timely, safe and efficient manner. The result – improved Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), which is a critical reliability metric for companies to track and trend over time.

A CAST Business Case

Benefits of Adopting a CAST Program

Adopting and implementing a CAST program should provide the following benefits:

* Optimizes plant operations

* Improves the reliability of overall operations

* Decreases downtime from asset failure (Improvement in MTBF metric)

* Advanced scheduling of preventive maintenance when it is evident that an asset is close to failing

* Reduce overall costs by fixing a problem before it occurs

* Improve bottom line revenue from less downtime

Will a CAST program work for my company?

A critical assessment of the advantages and disadvantages should be performed by a company to determine if a CAST program will mitigate risks and improve the bottom line. Consider the following questions before deciding if a CAST program will benefit you:

1. What are the risks to employee safety if a failure occurs? Would a CAST program improve worker safety?

2. What are the risks of an unplanned asset failure?

3. What are the risks if recovery from a failure is lengthy?

4. What will it cost to fix and recover from a failure?

5. What are the risks of downtime to my end-user customers? What is the potential for damage to the company’s reputation?


A thorough analysis of the company’s risks associated with an asset failure must be performed to determine if adopting a CAST model manages and mitigates those risks. Employee safety is a primary concern. The bottom line revenue and profit/loss are primary concerns. Costs of implementing a condition-based maintenance program versus costs from unplanned downtime and failures is a critical part of the analysis.

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Condition-Based Maintenance Program

What Is A Condition-Based Maintenance Program [CBM]?

Will you receive the critical phone call in the middle of the night notifying you that a major asset at your company failed?  You may ask yourself how long will the downtime be or, what will it cost to fix?  When calls like this wake you up, forget about going back to sleep.  Either you are tossing and turning while thinking about the problem or, you are getting dressed and heading into work.  Is there a solution?  Could I have foreseen this failure before it occurred?  The answer is MAYBE!

Historically, companies have performed maintenance inspections of critical assets based on a calendar-type program.  In other words, they would set up an inspection calendar to evaluate the health of their assets every month, every quarter or even annually, depending on the complexity of the asset inspection process.  But, do these calendar-based inspection programs detect an asset that will fail in 1 month or 3 months or 9 months?  As assets become more technologically advanced, any disruption or failure of these assets can cause downtime to your business, possibly affecting your customers, resulting in huge recovery costs and lost customer revenue.

Is it possible to predict asset failures before they happen?  Can I increase the reliability of my operations?  Many assets will display errors, or some type of indicator of deterioration, long before they fail.  A condition-based maintenance program is defined as maintenance when the need arises.  Performing frequent inspections of mission critical assets and performing trend analysis of inspection data over time may help pinpoint an asset that is beginning to show signs of deterioration.  Once an asset has been identified as a potential failure risk, preventive maintenance can be scheduled and performed before a failure occurs.

Learn how a utility company prevented a major failure

Pros and Cons

Adopting a condition-based maintenance program is an important tool for optimal plant operations.  Improved reliability of overall operations, decreased downtime due to asset failure and cost management of maintenance are all advantages of adopting a condition-based maintenance program.

However, there are some challenges such as increased costs of implementation or a complete overhaul of the maintenance procedures requiring organizational change from top management down to the hourly employee.  A critical assessment of the advantages and disadvantages should be performed.

Will a condition-based maintenance program work for my company?

Questions to consider before deciding if a condition-based maintenance program would work for you:

  1. What is my company’s dependence on the asset?
  2. How many mission critical assets does the company have?
  3. What are the consequences of an unplanned asset failure?
  4. How long will it take to recover from a failure?
  5. What will it cost to fix and recover from a failure?
  6. Have I caused a disruption to my end-user customers? If yes, have I lost revenue?


A thorough analysis of the company’s critical assets needs to be performed.  Costs of implementing a condition-based maintenance program versus costs from unplanned downtime and failures is a critical part of the analysis.  Change is often difficult but necessary, especially when it hits a company’s bottom line.


Performing an Ultrasound Route Using Sonus XT and E Sentry Connect

This short video illustrates how to perform an actual ultrasound inspection route using the Sonus XT handheld ultrasound detector and the E Sentry Connect Tagging System.  The E Sentry Connect tagging system uses near field communication and its flexibility enables data collection and monitoring of condition based inspection data from infrared, vibration, visual and ultrasound inspections over time. One tag can store all types of inspection data for that asset.

The Sonus XT ultrasound detector allows the inspector to listen to any faults that may exist.  The information from the inspection is then recorded to the E Sentry Connect tag for each asset. Once the inspection route is completed, the ultrasound data can be analyzed using the Sonus Vue Pro software to review any anomaly that may have been detected.  Data can be viewed in the frequency domain, time domain or even as a 3D spectrogram and can compare it to known examples of arcing, tracking or corona to determine what type of problem may exist.

Finally, using the E Sentry Cloud, the inspection details of the route can be reviewed and compared to historical data. Color Coding is available to denote an asset in an alarm condition.  E Sentry Connect provides management of users, sets up and schedules inspection routes, stores data and alarms if needed and allows custom reports to be generated.

Condition based inspection devices from IRISS provide flexibility and efficiency because data is easily collected, stored and maintained for each asset.