Consideration: Condition of MaintenanceBlake Hirschmann
Condition of Maintenance is a Foundational Discipline in Electrical Safety
What’s missing in this picture?
Imagine going through the process of ensuring a safe electrical working environment:
- Developing a robust written electrical safety program.
- Insuring qualifications of electrical workers match their job description and skill requirements.
- Training those workers to identify the hazards and reduce the risk associated with electrical work.
- Spendingbig money on arc flash and electric shock risk assessments and notifyingyour workforce via current equipment labeling.
- Researching, procuringandimplementing a PPE program.
This hasn’t been an easy road to say the least. However, there may be a hidden danger that you and your team may have missed regarding their safety and well being. The risk that is often overlooked is the Condition of Maintenance!
Why is Condition of Maintenance Overlooked by Many?
Recently I was working with a highly reputable Engineering and Maintenance firm on an electrical safety project. John Welch, PE and owner of Bowtie Engineering informed me that many companies overlook a critical factor in their overall formula for electrical safety in the workplace.
If responsible managers “blindly” follow the PPE requirements posted on current “Arc Flash Labels” they are prone to neglect maintenance. “Maintenance has always been about reliability…” according to Welch, “…but most people don’t consider life safety as a critical aspect of the maintenance function”.
Looking too narrowly at the PPE requirements stands often in the way of considering the source of electrical harm: the electrical equipment itself.
Definition of Condition of Maintenance
Condition of Maintenance is defined as “The state of the electrical equipment considering the manufacturers’ instructions, recommendations and industry codes, standards and recommended practices.”
Improperly maintained or damaged equipment cannot be assumed to function normally or provide the protection for the operator that would have been afforded by proper installation and maintenance.
It makes sense when you take a moment to think about it: A label containing incident energy information associated with the potential arc flash hazard was derived from information collected and submitted at a certain point in time.
That information was then input into a complex software solution, which utilizes that specific information to “model” an arc flash event. Then the software measures the severity of that event to define the hazard facing the worker at “ground zero” as well as defining an arc flash boundary to protect co-workers and affected personnel.
Now, if that specific equipment is not properly maintained, over time there can be a possibly catastrophic increase in the exposure to the workers involved and they may not even know it.
It stands to reason that an electrical component not maintained properly can produce an arc flash event much higher than what was originally “modeled”. The reality is that workers are in danger of experiencing an arc flash event.
How to Protect Your Workers and Yourself
As a remedy, consider the Condition of Maintenance as a Life Safety issue that is critical to assessing the risk associated with working on or near electrical equipment.
Following actions that can be done, when possible today:
- Implement a robust maintenance program for all electrical components matching manufacturer recommendations with actual and documented preventative maintenance procedures.
- Empower your Qualified Personnel to recognize potential problems associated with Condition of Maintenance through effective training.
- Always “overprotect” with PPE in the event that Condition of Maintenance is suspect.
- WORK DE-ENERGIZED!
Case in Point: Breaker Breakdown
How fast a breaker “will clear” is known (from the manufacturer) when the breaker is in “like new” condition. Over time, if that breaker is not properly maintained, the time for it to clear may increase enough to make a critical change to the resulting incident energy calculations.
As a consequence the equipment may present a much higher energy than was expected due to the Condition of Maintenance not correctly posted by information contained on the equipment label.
“Life Safety” factors must be considered when assessing the Condition of Maintenance of any piece of electrical equipment. If you simply walk up to a piece of equipment, read the label and then select PPE based on that information alone, you may be putting yourself in jeopardy.
Condition of Maintenance is a foundational discipline in electrical safety. It should be considered as an ongoing part of the electrical risk assessment process.
For more information look to NFPA 70E Articles 200 through 250 or for further guidance contact Steve Quiett at [email protected] or at 214-210-5415