We all know that we should pay attention to the mechanical components of an electrical system. These are essential not only for the proper operation of the entire system, but also for avoiding mishaps like arc flashes. However, we find that maintenance on electrical components like automatic transfer switches, circuit breakers, switchgear and UPS batteries are sometimes overlooked. There are many documented cases where failures and breakdowns of electrical systems have resulted in injuries, property damage, extended downtime, lost productivity, legal action and fines.
Regulations associated with electrical system maintenance are helpful in developing a workplace plan. For example, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 70E and its Canadian counterpart, CSA Z462, are the standards for electrical systems and employee safety in the workplace. These standards include practices related to the hazards associated with electrical energy during the installation, inspection, operation, maintenance and demolition of electrical equipment. While Code 70E does not prescribe specific maintenance methods or testing procedures, it does require that maintenance measurements are in place to preserve or restore the system. Simply put, the code places the responsibility on the employer to ensure the workplace is safe and free of electrical hazards.
On the other hand, codes such as NFPA 70B offer some specific testing recommendations and even outline practices for preventive maintenance on electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment. Specifically, it calls for an effective electrical preventive maintenance (EPM) program to enhance worker safety, workplace productivity and system efficiency while reducing environmental impact.
According to Code 70B, an EPM program should include:
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 made
Performance of necessary work
Concise but complete records
Implementing an EPM program is an important step for maintaining an effective electrical system and for protecting employees. NFPA 70B provides detailed, step-by-step instructions to help employers meet all regulatory standards as well as any local or regional requirements. Keep in mind that there may be industry-specific codes to follow as well.
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