Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Can Electrical Safety Benefit From A Holistic Condition Monitoring Program?

Electrical maintenance is extraordinarily hazardous in the workplace.  Hundreds of electrical engineers are killed or injured annually due to an arc flash, arc blast or by electrocution.  In a recent survey from Plant Services, 60% of the respondents know someone who has been involved in an arc flash incident.  Gaining access to electrical components by opening panels to perform inspections is both dangerous and costly to a company.  Is there an alternative?

Historically, electrical inspections were based on the calendar (time) and involved a planned shutdown to torque and tighten connections and perform visual inspection for obvious signs of equipment fatigue and contamination.  The calendar based methodology missed many hard to spot problems and also the ran the risk of Maintenance Induced Failures where good intentions go horribly astray.  With the introduction of Condition Based maintenance tools like Infrared and Ultrasound, companies migrated to energized CBM inspection but did so by opening doors or removing panels with maintenance team dressing in full PPE gear.  With the newly published NFPA 70E 2018 risk-based guidelines, companies must review their electrical inspection procedures for compliance to the “Hierarchy of Controls” outlined in the document.  Failure to do so could result in fines and more importantly, the creation of a hazardous work environment.  More and more companies are replacing time-based inspections with Condition Based Monitoring programs to gather inspection data more frequently and to only “fix” those components that are showing deterioration.

                                                                                                                  Find It and Fix It Before It Fails

Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices [EMSDs] are commercially available and have been designed for inspection teams to now be able to perform safe electrical inspections on energized equipment in a safe and guarded condition.  Any industry that requires power to operate equipment could benefit from EMSDs and the adoption of EMSDs increases annually.   Its all about employee safety and risk reduction! 

EMSDs, as tools within a Condition Based Monitoring program, enhance efficiency and safety to the maintenance process.  Types of EMSD devices are:

  1. Maintenance Inspection Windows that solely provide infrared thermography inspections or a combination Window that enables both infrared thermography and ultrasound detection
  2. Ultrasonic Detectors and Ports that are used to detect partial discharge associated with arcing, tracking and corona
  3. Temperature Monitoring Systems to detect a rise in internal panel temperatures when compared to outside panel ambient temperatures
  4. Intelligent Asset Tagging Systems that collect and illustrate historical inspection data used by the maintenance team as early warning signs of equipment deterioration

What will the future bring? As the future unfolds, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) evolves, newer products will be developed and will add additional capabilities to the holistic maintenance program.

Conclusion:

Companies are continuously searching for solutions to mitigate risk, reduce operating costs and increase productivity; especially as they will be held compliant with recent safety guidelines.   Companies recognize that preventing equipment failures by performing proactive condition monitoring inspections saves time and money in the long run. Reducing risk and providing a safe work environment is possible with a holistic program utilizing EMSDs.

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