Taking care of your electrical systems – it’s not just a good idea, it’s required

by Visitor Grant on ‎08-14-2012 03:56 PM



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.

by Visitor muralcr
on ‎08-21-2012 02:37 AM

i agree with you having maintained Cat Power plants for more than 15 Years and working for Caterpillar Power generation systems for Five years the problem is the Genset Ownwers who expects the Maintainence Budget to be redused by at least 10% every year or else take a pinkslip

by Visitor Chisholmd1
on ‎08-21-2012 12:39 PM
Acute care facilities, even the largest, are facing reduced reimbursements from federal and state sponsored healthcare plans. This will necessitate reductions in budgets, and maintenance budgets are viewed as a prime candidates. Most directors of engineering will fight to keep their budgets in tack for emergency power, medical gas and other patient related equipment, but some will lose the battle. Equipment well beyond its useful life will have to stay in place as well because of cuts in capital budgets. These are the times we live in. Turning these negatives into positives requires a departure from the "normal" sales process, and a fresh look at how we assist the directors with such things as(1) keeping their jobs, and (2) making sure they don't get blamed for equipment failure. Most of our clients are now requiring their in-house folks to assist the EPSS contractors with some of the more mundane procedures and asking for contractors to cut their price accordingly. I always tell my clients to "suggest" to the CFO that the pure definition of emergency power includes "being there when the utility isn't, and within 10 seconds", which means it must be maintained better than the utility. Most of the time this works if you add enough emphasis...plus a few case histories. Stand your ground, but be empathetic. Let me know if I can help you with any clients...some them may be mine as well. We also have forms and other information being distributed to the CAT dealers across the country. Dan Chisholm, Sr. MGI Consulting, Inc. Emergency Power Systems Group Dan.Chisholm@mgi-epss.com www.epssgroup.net 407.421.7189 NFPA Disclaimer: Although Dan Chisholm is a member of the NFPA Technical Committees responsible for NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities - Electrical Section, and NFPA 110-111 Emergency and Standby Power Systems, the views and opinions expressed in this message are purely the authors and shall not be considered an official position of the NFPA or any of its Technical Committees and shall not be considered to be, nor be relied upon as, a Formal Interpretation or promotion of the NFPA. Readers are encouraged to refer to the entire text of all referenced documents.
by Trusted Contributor
on ‎08-25-2012 10:10 PM
comment was moved to discussion board: Power Generation Operation and Maintenance
by Contributor PhaseShifter
on ‎03-22-2013 12:22 AM

Hi Grant,


Our companny produces controlsystems and both HV and LV powerdistribution for production-plants In the Netherland and worldwide on and off-shore in island or mains-parallel operated installations.

Here in Netherlands the NEN3140 regulates the standards concerning electrical safety procedures and the Law relates to this standards when work is to be done in electrical environments.

Most important rule in NEN3140 is that it is not allowed to work within 50cm of live circuits, but with the proper safety shielding tools, you may measure within a range of 5cm.

To check the health of powerdistrubutionpanels, we use IR-camera from Flir and calibrated Fluke poweranalysers.

All these tools and regulations, safetytraining everey 3 year, makes inspection expensive /costy for the owner. The argument of availlability and thrustability is the most important one to get a reasonable budget for inspection, but most of the service quotes we make on this subject, the custommers fid too expensive in compare with the risks.

So i will follow this item to see how we can improve on this subject.


Greetings, PhaseShifter


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