Everyone knows to maintain the mechanical portions of a generator set, and probably knows the regulations that go hand-in-hand with that maintenance. But what about on the electrical side? Over the past months, my colleagues have blogged here about the importance of maintaining your electrical systems with a focus on specific incidents such as arc flash. These blogs have had some great tips for ensuring the proper operation of your entire system, and the bottom line is, to avoid an event such as arch flash, maintenance is essential.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to neglect the maintenance of your electrical systems, and just as easy to forget that there are also specific regulations associated with electrical system maintenance that must be met. To make matters worse, these regulatory codes can be lengthy and confusing.
For example, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Code 70E (and its Canadian counterpart, CSA Z462) is the standard covering electrical systems and employee safety in the workplace. This standard covers electrical safety-related work practices for workplaces relative to the hazards associated with electrical energy during installation, inspection, operation, maintenance, and demolition of electrical equipment. And while Code 70E does not prescribe specific maintenance methods or testing procedures, it does require that some maintenance measurements are in place to preserve or restore the condition of electrical equipment for the safety of employees who work on or near this equipment. Simply put, the code says that it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the workplace is safe and free of electrical hazards.
NFPA Code 70B, on the other hand, does lay out some specific testing recommendations. This code outlines a recommended practice for preventive maintenance for electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment. Specifically, the code calls for an Effective Electrical Preventative Maintenance Program (EPM) to enhance worker safety, workplace productivity and efficiency, and reduce environmental impact.
According to Code 70B, an EPM program should include:
- A staff of trained, responsible and qualified personnel
- Survey and analysis of electrical equipment and systems to determine maintenance requirements and priorities
- Programmed routine inspections and suitable tests
- Accurate analysis of inspection and test reports so that proper corrective measures can be prescribed
- Performance of necessary work
- Concise but complete records
Setting up and following an EPM program is an important step in maintaining an effective electrical system, and keeping employees safe. Code 70B provides detailed, step-by-step instructions for getting this done. It is also the first step in knowing and following all relevant NFPA or CSA standards, as well as any local or regional requirements, to help ensure your electrical equipment functions safely and appropriately. Keep in mind there may also be codes specific to the industry in which you operate, such as those put forth by the Uptime Institute for the data center industry, or the Joint Commission for the healthcare industry.
You may argue that implementing an EPM is costly, or that you don’t have the staffing or resources to track down what your local or regional requirements may be. However, there are many documented cases where electrical failures and breakdowns have resulted in injuries, property damage, extended downtime, lost productivity, legal action and fines that far exceeded the cost of a regular maintenance program.
We would like to know what type of maintenance program you have in place to ensure your electrical system operates safely and effectively. Do you have a specific EPM plan? Why or why not? Please post below.
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