What stands out in the 2020 Plant Engineeringelectrical safety survey is nine in 10 facilities have an electrical safety program that heightens the overall awareness of potential electrical hazards and self-discipline on the plant floor. Results of these programs indicate electrical safety awareness has an impact, as 97% of respondents believe their employees feel safe on the job, and 80% said employees feel respected by management. Also, 80% of respondents have observed an increase in productivity over time due to implemented electrical safety programs.
When it comes to where electrical safety programs excel, 75% of respondents say their facilities do well at placing emphasis on personal protective equipment (PPE). However, the surprise is the gap between this and the next response: Emphasis on electrical safety training at 53% — a 22% difference. Another surprise is only 42% of respondents said their facility’s electrical safety programs excel at placing emphasis on arc flash.
According to survey respondents, the top seven methods plants use to enforce electrical safety are job safety analysis (79%); regular safety meetings (72%); safety audits (68%); discipline, suspension or termination (67%); management leadership (63%); safety committee (63%); and peer-to-peer (57%).
Although the largest number of respondents (35%) said electrical safety meetings are held only as needed and at undefined intervals, those who contribute advice or input at these meetings are no surprise. The top five players include electrical department management/supervision (60%), electricians (58%), engineering (57%), safety executives/managers (56%) and maintenance (55%).
In the 6 months prior to this survey, 66% of respondents had zero OSHA recordable electrical incidents in their facilities. In the same timeframe, 69% of respondents had zero OSHA recordable electrical incidents resulting in lost time.
When asked about arc flash, 58% of respondents say their facility has never experienced an arc flash incident. However, an alarming 31% say their facility has experienced one or more arc flash incidents. Results of these incidents include lost time (38%), no injury (30%), death (11%) and permanent disability (9%). Equipment or properties damaged by arc flash incidents include switchgear (43%), wire and cabling (43%), motor control centers (36%) and parts of the facility (9%).
Highlights of the 2020 Plant Engineeringelectrical safety study include the following:
Respondents have worked in plant- or engineering-related positions for an average of 27 years.
Safety meetings are the primary method of informing electrical workers and management about electrical-safety-related issues or incidents.
Respondents are located throughout the U.S., and especially in the, east north central, south Atlantic and Pacific regions.
68% of respondents are responsible for maintaining, implementing or managing electrical safety standards.
63% of respondents are impacted by electrical safety standards in their day-to-day work operations.
The annual cost of electrical safety training per employee is $845.
The average annual budget for electrical safety training and equipment is $33,910.
42% of respondents made no change to the budget for electrical safety training and equipment from 2018 to 2019; only 23% increased budgets.
93% of respondents indicate the company pays for a worker’s electrical safety equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Not enough time for training is the primary challenge to electrical safety, according to 66% of respondents.
48% of respondents say their companies excel at placing emphasis on PPE.
Modern manufacturing facilities need a comprehensive approach to its electrical safety program policies and practices. Creating a safe workplace requires rigorous enforcement of electrical safety standards and strict adherence to guidelines with close monitoring of industry best practices. Performing work without turning off power and verifying that a de-energized condition exists is a leading cause of electrical injuries. The Electrical Safety Foundation International statistics show that there were 2,210 nonfatal electrical injuries in 2017, an increase of 35% over 2016.
Workplace safety is always a top priority on the job and in the plant environment, but even with this focus and mindset, accidents happen. Typically, the response to electrical incidents and near misses is to propose more safety training, but training alone is not enough. It is crucial to incorporate design-first thinking to improve workplace electrical safety and accurately track near misses to see where opportunities for improvement exist. Leaders and managers need to implement a proactive prevention through design (PtD) program and track near misses to mitigate electrical safety hazards and protect workers in their plant.
The significance of PtD
As a principle, PtD is an achievable solution to improve worker health and safety, especially when it comes to electrical safety. Designing to reduce or eliminate hazards, before any electrical exposure happens in the workplace, should be a top priority for industry safety professionals and plant floor managers. PtD includes all efforts to prevent injuries by reducing exposure to hazards primarily through design efforts rather than administrative controls or personal protective equipment (PPE). It applies not only to products and equipment but also processes and procedures used on the plant floor.
Figure 1: NIOSH defines five rungs of the Hierarchy of Controls: elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment. Courtesy: Panduit
The PtD concept is firmly taking hold within the safety and plant engineering community. Efforts are being made to increase its adoption through inclusion in standards. Every manufacturing process has many inherent safety risks. It is essential to identify and minimize potential hazards from the beginning.
With PtD, new technologies and products reduce human exposure to hazards to achieve higher safety levels, making electrical infrastructure safer for anyone entering the facility for the duration of its lifecycle. Product development by way of PtD also can simultaneously increase productivity, as it limits worker exposure to electrical hazards during routine maintenance and work activity while making the process faster and less complicated.
How PtD reduces workplace injuries
PtD begins with the process of identifying potential risks within a process or environment with the goal of eliminating that risk whenever possible. In cases where risk elimination is impossible or impractical, substitution (replacing the hazard) or engineering controls (isolating people from the hazard) is the most effective means to reduce workplace injuries (see Figure 1). Several PtD products have been developed to replace or isolate people from the risk, such as permanently mounted light curtains, data access ports, infrared (IR) windows for thermal Inspection and absence of voltage testers (AVTs).
The process of de-energizing and verifying equipment in an electrically safe work condition before beginning work can help prevent electrical incidents. AVTs are the only permanently mounted testing devices specifically designed with this in mind by determining if a circuit part is de-energized before opening panels or removing covers to access and maintain electrical equipment. The AVT not only reduces the risk of exposure to electrical hazards but also simplifies the traditional, time-consuming, handheld equipment process to a reliable, single push-button action.
AVTs help improve electrical safety by way of a PtD approach and are an ideal preventive option for plant floor maintenance and reliability professionals, their staff and safety professionals (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Example of an Absence of Voltage Tester. Courtesy: Panduit
It is beneficial to examine whether absence of voltage testing can be optimized using PtD methodology because of how frequently it is done in the manufacturing workplace. Every safety and plant floor manager’s top priority is to provide a workplace free from serious safety and health hazards, as well as ensuring the workplace is in compliance with applicable standards, rules and regulations to maintain safety in their manufacturing facility. Safety managers today are challenging electrical infrastructure suppliers to create dependable methods of identifying and verifying de-energized electrical equipment.
Near miss reporting is an essential tool
According to IEEE, “a ‘near-miss’ is generally defined as an unplanned incident that did not, but had the potential to, result in an injury.” In an electrical safety environment, this would be an incident where a potentially life-threatening or fatal shock, arc flash, arc blast, electrical fire, etc., could have taken place. These misses are valuable information resources for plant and safety management.
So why do so may near misses go unreported? One main reason is company culture. It is the responsibility of plant and safety managers to establish a welcoming safety culture on the plant floor. Some best practices include posting and explaining the definition of a near miss, reporting on not only incidents but near misses and communicating them as lessons learned and immediate and simple recording processes so near misses do not get lost in that day-to-day.
What should companies do once an electrical near miss occurs and is reported? Companies with active safety cultures often have a “work-stop” meeting where the employees and managers discuss the near miss, why it happened and how it can be prevented in the future. When floor employees are trained in root cause analysis (RCA), these conversations often are led by the floor employees and are more productive. This employee and manager team approach goes a long way in nurturing a positive safety culture. It also empowers the floor employees to be responsible for their safety, gives them the tools to report near misses and a sense of ownership in eliminating the hazard.
These conversations should guide plant and safety managers to establish new safety processes and use them as an opportunity to apply and use PtD principles. But the safety mindset must not stop there — following up on near misses, regularly auditing equipment, job plans and procedures are essential to making sure a culture of safety “sticks” with the employees.
The importance moving forward
Worldwide, industry implementation of PtD and reporting near misses still has room for improvement. Adopting and nurturing an environment that promotes safety culture that encourages near miss reporting is a key to identifying PtD opportunities.
Plant management’s role in the PtD process is obvious: Establish a motivational force to promote designing for safety and protect workers by implementing solutions that help reduce exposure to hazards throughout their facility. PtD methodology can be applied to existing tools, equipment and processes, but addressing safety early in the design process is more economical and should be the first option explored.
Safety pays when it comes to plants and factories. Electrical injuries account for one of the highest average workers’ compensation costs, with sources indicating the average direct cost of an electrical injury ranges from $50,000 to $80,000. The indirect loss can even exceed this by four times because of the ensuing property damage and repair and lost productivity. Approaching a total cost of $500,000, companies should think twice about how effective their safety program, procedures and tools are.
Because of PtD and the adoption of near miss reporting, the safety culture is changing. New technology like AVTs will continue to play an important role in electrical hazard reduction strategies for plants worldwide.
The World Corrosion Organization estimates the global cost of corrosion at $2.5 trillion (USD) or about 3% of the GDP in most industrialized countries. Therefore, any money saved by preventing corrosion, including the cost of lost productivity because of outages, delays, failures and litigation; labor; and new equipment to replace failed parts, directly improves profitability.
Consider the petrochemical refining industry where processing equipment, electrical systems and lighting need protection from pitting, corrosive gases and water intrusions. In the U.S. alone, the industry’s annual direct cost of corrosion is estimated at $3.7 billion. Of this total, maintenance-related expenses are estimated at $1.8 billion, vessel turnaround expenses at $1.4 billion and fouling costs are approximately $0.5 billion. In a commodity-driven industry, investment in more effective corrosion control strategies often takes a back seat to across-the-board cost-cutting measures to the detriment of long-term profits, environmental safety and operational productivity.
Figure 1: Intertek conducted ASTM B117-18: Standard Practice for Operating Salt Spray (Fog) Apparatus performance testing on iron conduit bodies from three major manufacturers. A total of 39 conduit bodies were tested, all in the 3/4-inch trade size. Courtesy: Emerson Automation Solutions, Appleton Group
When specifying electrical products for harsh environments, choosing the right materials to ensure adequate corrosion resistance is crucial. In offshore oil and gas operations, for example, equipment is under constant exposure to seawater and salt spray, both of which are highly corrosive due to the autocatalytic action of sodium chloride and other dissolved chlorides. Corrosive substances such as hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide also occur naturally in oil and gas fields. Other corrosives that affect a wide range of industries include chlorine, bromine, hydrochloric acid and ammonia.
Iron and steel types
Most industrial electrical products worldwide are still made of coated metal. The most used metals are ferrous, taking advantage of iron’s strength, versatility, workability and relative affordability. Unfortunately, except for stainless steel, ferrous products also are the most susceptible to corrosion.
Various finishes can be applied to help isolate metallic surfaces from the surrounding corrosive environment. The most familiar example is ordinary paint applied to steel to prevent rust. However, there are several other methods including baked enamel, epoxy powder coat and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coating. For effective protection, coatings must be applied properly and protected from damage during installation and use. The zinc surface on galvanized steel serves as a protective coating and, if damaged, a sacrificial anode that will corrode in preference to the exposed steel.
Galvanization and finishes
Galvanization of iron and steel products can greatly improve corrosion resistance in wet or weather-exposed environments. Galvanized cast iron and non-stainless-steel products often are used in wet and weather exposed locations with the expectation that they can safely remain in service for many years. But the same products would likely be unsuitable for direct exposure to corrosive chemicals. A wide variety of liquid and powder coating finishes can be applied to iron and steel products — including galvanized products — to help seal out water, air and corrosive chemicals. Their effectiveness depends on thorough coverage, reliable adhesion and suitable resistance to impact and abrasion in the field. Resistance to chemical degradation also is important. Epoxy powder coat is one example of a finish that provides excellent resilience and strength while remaining impervious to heat and most chemicals.
Galvanization provides double protection
The only effective way to fight rust is to prevent the corrosive processes from beginning. This normally is done in one of two ways: by adding a barrier i.e., paint, that prevents oxygen and electrolytes such as rainwater from reaching the surface, or by introducing a sacrificial anode, which corrodes preferentially to the iron or steel part. Galvanization provides both protection methods simultaneously.
The galvanizing process creates a metallurgical bond between a zinc coating and the underlying steel or iron. This bond provides much stronger adhesion than any type of paint, including epoxies. The galvanized surface forms in multiple layers, with zinc and iron alloyed in varying ratios. The outer layer of pure zinc is relatively ductile, while the inner layers are progressively harder — harder than steel, in fact. These qualities combine to provide excellent resistance to impact and abrasion, helping protect against surface damage.
In addition, when left unpainted, zinc exposed to the wetting and drying of weather gradually forms a zinc carbonate patina over a period of a few months to a year. This patina provides an additional barrier against corrosion. Because it “grows” outward from the surface, this patina is especially effective at protecting edges and corners where paint could be easily damaged.
The most important advantage of galvanizing over paint, however, is the anodic property of zinc in a galvanic couple with iron. If the galvanized coating is damaged — whether by accident or through an intentional action such as cutting or drilling — the zinc will act as a sacrificial anode that corrodes first while protecting the more noble iron or steel.
This protective action will continue until the damage is repaired by applying a zinc-rich paint to the damaged area, for example, or until all the zinc has corroded. Depending on the thickness of the galvanized layer and the corrosiveness of the surrounding atmosphere, the service life, defined as time to first maintenance, can be a couple of decades to 100 years or more.
Epoxy powder coat
Unlike liquid paint, powder coating uses an electrostatic process to apply a finish to metallic parts in a dry state. Once applied, the finish is heat cured to create a finish that is thicker, tougher, more even on all outer surfaces and edges and more durable than most paints. This makes epoxy powder coat one of the preferred protection choices for oil and gas, wastewater and other harsh, corrosive industrial applications. To ensure proper adhesion and maximum durability, correct surface preparation and application quality are essential. The goal should be to apply multiple, well-bonded coats to provide optimum resistance against impact and abrasion. Components should be periodically inspected for finish damage that exposes the metal underneath to salt spray or other corrosive elements. Epoxy powder coat also can be degraded by UV radiation, so service life may be shortened for products installed in areas exposed to intense direct sunlight.
Independent performance testing
To determine the corrosion resistance of various protection methods used on conduit bodies, Emerson turned to Intertek, an independent total quality assurance provider to industries worldwide with more than 1,000 laboratories and 44,000 employees. Intertek conducted ASTM B117-18: Standard Practice for Operating Salt Spray (Fog) Apparatus performance testing on iron conduit bodies from three major manufacturers. A total of 39 conduit bodies were tested, all in the 3/4-inch trade size (see Figure 1).
The salt solution used was 5% ±1% according to ASTM B117-18. To prevent salt fog from entering the interior of the conduit body, all iron test samples had steel (zinc plated) plugs installed, with aluminum plugs with Teflon tape in the aluminum samples. Test samples were subjected to the salt fog for 1,008 hours (42 days), being removed only for inspection and photography at fixed intervals.
Testing was conducted in the Arlington Heights, Ill. Intertek laboratory in January 2019. Test samples were sorted into 15 groups according to metal and protection types, i.e., malleable iron (plated/painted), die-cast aluminum (painted), cast iron (plated/painted), cast aluminum (unpainted) and so on. All samples were purchased at electrical distributors from their inventory and not sourced from the manufacturer. This article examines the results of the malleable iron and cast-iron samples.
Testing was conducted in the Arlington Heights, Ill. Intertek laboratory in January 2019. Test samples were sorted into groups according to metal and protection types. Testing was performed according to ASTM B117-18 using a 5% salt solution.
Test subjects were three malleable iron conduit bodies using different protection methods (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Test subjects were three malleable iron conduit bodies protected by: Appleton FM7: triple-coat finish featuring zinc, chromate and electrostatically applied epoxy powder coating (left); Brand X: Zinc plating and acrylic paint (center); Brand Y: Zinc plating and acrylic paint (right). The top photo shows the conduit bodies before the test. The bottom photo shows the same conduit bodies after 42 days in salt fog. Courtesy: Emerson Automation Solutions, Appleton Group
Test subjects were three cast iron conduit bodies using different protection methods (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Test subjects were three cast iron conduit bodies protected by: Appleton Form 35: triple-coat finish featuring zinc, chromate and electrostatically applied epoxy powder coating (left); Brand X: Zinc plating and acrylic paint (center); Brand Y: Zinc plating and acrylic paint (right). The top photo shows the conduit bodies before the test. The bottom photo shows the same conduit bodies after 42 days in salt fog. Courtesy: Emerson Automation Solutions, Appleton Group
Not all industries have the same corrosion problems, but all industries do need to take the possibility of corrosion seriously and choose the right protection for their operations and environment. Start by checking the certifications and ratings required for your application. Next, discuss these requirements and concerns with the manufacturer. Becoming informed is the best way to ensure the product you select will provide the corrosion protection and service you expect over its lifetime.
In this study and in real-world applications, the triple coat finish has shown to be far more effective than conventional paint finishes. It’s formed when a zinc electroplate, chromate dip and epoxy powder coating is combined to achieve greater corrosion protection in wet or harsh environments, assuring long, trouble-free service in locations such as petrochemical and chemical plants, refineries and other process industries.
Triple-coat finishes consist of:
Coat No. 1: Zinc electroplate.Zinc is one of the most important nonferrous metals. When applied onto the surface of ferrous metals, it creates a formidable corrosion-resistant barrier. It is resistant to atmospheric attack, fresh and saltwater and is highly effective at keeping moisture from reaching the surface of the coated object.
Coat No. 2: Chromate dip.Chromate coatings act as paint does, protecting the zinc from white corrosion, thus making the part considerably more durable. It also destroys organic growth on the surface. While conventional paint coatings have long been popular, they’re not as effective in resisting corrosion as chromate. Paint is hard to apply evenly, so it tends to drip and bubble, miss small crevices and thin out at the edges, leaving these areas more exposed. Because of its chemical composition and method of application, chromate is not subject to paint’s limitations.
Coat No. 3: Epoxy powder coat. As a final finishing step, epoxy powder is applied to fittings electrostatically. Drawn to the metal like a magnet, the powder covers evenly, reaching into the smallest crevices. The powder is then slowly oven baked to cure the coating and ensure a strong bond. Because powder coating does not have a liquid carrier, it can produce thicker coatings than conventional liquid coatings without running or sagging. Products are more resistant to mechanical damage since the powder coat finish does not crack or chip like painted surfaces.
By merging the strengths of zinc, chromate and epoxy powder, the triple-coat process results in a thick, uniform layer of protection that seals out the harshest corrosives, including:
Chlorine and chlorides
Ammonia and ammonia salts
Triple coat is extremely durable. It is flexible so it stays intact when the underlying metal expands and contracts during temperature changes and stress fluctuations — unlike paints. It also adds value through fewer callbacks and lower operation costs, while helping safeguard the environment by virtually eliminating overspray particulates. On the job, there is no better way to safeguard your operations, profitability and employee safety than triple-coat protection.
Collect usable data as the first step toward effective analysis.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) offers manufacturing organizations almost unimaginable potential to change the way managers and operators do their jobs by connecting production equipment to the cloud. In fact, Accenture, the global management consulting and professional services firm, has forecast that IIoT could add as much as $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030 by increasing productivity and detecting production problems early, while they can be corrected efficiently and economically.
For many, figuring out how to install the sensors and interconnections necessary to link all their hardware to a central database can seem like an overwhelming and expensive prospect. Large manufacturers typically have the ability to invest in implementing facility-wide or enterprise level IIoT platforms. Small to medium-sized organizations, however, often feel hamstrung by far smaller IT budgets and staffs, as well as by management’s unwillingness to accept the temporary disruptions to production a facility-wide conversion to IIoT might cause.
First things first
For manufacturing organizations like these, consider the “baby steps approach,” sometimes also called a discrete implementation. Essentially, this means that, early on, it’s important to stop worrying so much about uploading lots of data to the cloud and doing trending analysis, but focus instead on collecting usable data from equipment where it wasn’t being collected before. Think about taking on one small project at a time and mastering it before moving on to the next challenge.
This approach to IIoT focuses on making progress incrementally in a way that doesn’t come with the same financial, personnel or workflow interruption consequences that larger systems would. It offers a more realistic and economical starting point for many smaller manufacturing organizations. Starting with one specific application, rather than trying to apply IIoT to the whole facility, makes implementing IIoT far more manageable and affordable. What’s more, it forces managers to focus on a specific problem, ensuring a quick payback on the effort. By providing a fast return on a modest investment, it also inspires confidence that future steps will provide equally positive results.
Compressed air is an expensive resource in any manufacturing facility, so monitoring the performance of the compressed air system is a good first step in a discrete implementation of IIoT. Keeping these systems operating at peak efficiency offers big payback because losses due to leakage waste lots of energy. Inline sensors can be installed to monitor compressed air system variables such as pressure, flow, humidity, temperature and power consumption. Once collected, this data can be sent to a platform for conversion into a form that’s useful to the maintenance team. This data collection point can be the start for a facility-wide system for monitoring leakage and other system losses.
Five ways to think small about IIoT
Keeping these five tactics in mind can simplify the early stages of IIoT implementation for small to medium-sized companies:
1. Make your first bite a nibble, not a gulp. In just about every organization, the larger the budget for a project, the more people who must approve it and the more intense the payback monitoring will be. However, it can be tough to show a return on investment (ROI) quickly with an IIoT implementation because the implementation team is learning as they go. Rather than asking for all the money up front, it’s easier to ask for a few hundred dollars to cover the cost of some smart sensors, demonstrate the value of the information they deliver, and build management confidence in the concept.
2. Focus on the biggest trouble spots. Take the time to review maintenance records to determine which machines or processes in your facility represent the most significant sources of maintenance problems. These are the points where you should begin collecting data. Equipment with hard-to-find parts or difficult or expensive to repair also should be at the top of your list, as well as any machines that could represent a danger to personnel or other pieces of equipment if they fail because a problem went undetected.
3. Determine what you need to monitor to improve that asset’s operating efficiency.Component parameters such as temperature, pressure, humidity and vibration provide important clues that can indicate an asset’s condition and spot trouble before it happens. Collect the pertinent data and take a methodical approach to using this information. Assume that you’ve installed some smart sensors to monitor the voltage level of one of the components of a specific piece of equipment; an elevated voltage over an extended period might be an indication of future problems.
The next step is to decide how frequently this data should be reported back to the controller. Too long of an interval runs the risk of missing a fast-emerging problem, making it impossible to react in a timely way. Too short an interval can generate a flood of data that’s never analyzed and never used.
4. Choose a robust internet infrastructure. The solution chosen should include a centralized collection server capable of receiving and transmitting data from all the sensors and other devices that could eventually be integrated into the network.
One method of data transmission is through the programmable logic controller (PLC), which is easy to implement. Choosing the right protocol to connect sensors with controllers and actuators is critical to the success of any IIoT implementation. IO-Link is a cost-effective open communications protocol that supports simple, scalable, point-to-point communications between sensors or actuators and the controller. It also allows two-way communications to receive data and then download a parameter to the device/actuator.
As a result, processes can be adjusted remotely. The advantages of IO-Link include the automatic detection and parameterization of the IO-Link device, device monitoring, diagnostics, changes on the fly and reduced spare part costs. Ultimately, the key to unlocking the power of smart sensors is in making diagnostic information easy to access. IO-Link allows for cyclic data exchange capabilities so that programmers easily can send the information directly to where it is required, either to a human-machine interface (HMI) screen, a signal light or a maintenance request. If sensor or actuator parameters need to be changed or calibrated, this can be done remotely, even while the production line is running, ensuring that shutdowns, stoppages and unnecessary costs are avoided.
A different approach to data transmission is outside of the PLC, which has the benefit of not adding data/message traffic to the controller’s scan time. One especially economical approach to gathering data is as simple as attaching a wireless smart sensor to a piece of equipment to support remote advanced condition monitoring.
Information can be transmitted directly to a robust data platform on the user’s mobile device, which trends, assesses and monitors machine health quickly and accurately. Filtration is a good example – the state of a filter’s life can be assessed by comparing the differential pressure of the inlet to the outlet side of the filter.
Another example is measuring temperature trends for the hydraulic power unit – an increase in the pump outlet’s temperature can indicate the pump is losing efficiency and starting to fail. Being able to monitor equipment performance issues and evaluate the data onsite helps managers identify problems early and fix them before an equipment failure occurs.
5. Balance monitoring frequency with operational costs. Cloud-based solutions allow for around-the-clock monitoring, as well as alerting operations or maintenance personnel when conditions exceed preset limits. But there can be a point of diminishing returns. In the early stages of the implementation, focus on maximizing the quality of the data being collected, rather than the amount. Installing hundreds of sensors to generate masses of data doesn’t necessarily produce any useful information. It’s far more important to focus on collecting the right actionable data.
The industrial sector is changing rapidly: Autonomous robots are filling manufacturing floors, Internet of Things connectivity is increasingly pervasive and artificial intelligence is driving the rise of the smart factory. In 2018, industrial organizations have more motivation than ever to ensure facility functionality and uptime. Across a broad swath of industries, the cost of downtime can be significant—from $30,000 to more than $12 million an hour by some estimates.
This needed reliability hinges on healthy, modern electrical systems. Ensuring aging electrical equipment can keep up with modern demands can be an intimidating process, but it needn’t be.
There are new innovations that can provide a more reliable experience, increase energy efficiency and meet modern infrastructure needs—all while keeping costs and complexity in check.
TURN KNOWLEDGE INTO POWER
Connected technology platforms, which gather real-time data on infrastructure performance and share it via the cloud, can act like a heart monitor for your electrical system. Similar to a human body, there are many potential and unforeseen issues that could affect an electrical system’s holistic health and performance. Similar to a heart monitor, a platform can provide a level of reassurance that things are running as intended.
Through smart sensors, cloud-enablement and artificial intelligence, connected platforms for electrical infrastructure can collect and analyze performance data across multiple systems, bringing peace of mind to management by providing early failure notification and actionable insights for intelligent operations.
With a full view of what’s going on with power systems “behind the wall,” managers and engineers can reap numerous benefits, including the following.
Operational Performance: Connected technology platforms can significantly improve operational performance by reducing unscheduled downtime, increasing asset life and offering a more consistent experience with an optimized maintenance plan.
Financial Efficiency: A connected technology platform offers insights into the parts of the system that are at risk of failing. By receiving a warning from the platform, managers can avoid downtime and make repairs ahead of time. In turn, this reduces failure risk, cost of ownership and maintenance.
Safety: Employees will experience reduced personal risk. A connected technology platform will provide alerts to early equipment failure warnings, as well as provide expertise from the data gleaned.
Traditional, older medium voltage switchgear has an average maintenance lifecycle of one to three years, and frequent maintenance of electrical systems means frequent downtime for critical equipment. New metal-enclosed medium voltage switchgear technologies feature sealed-for-life compartments, meaning the internal components will be unaffected by the environment. As a result, maintenance lifecycle can be dramatically reduced to between 10 and 30 years, lowering the total cost of ownership and increasing system reliability. Importantly, this significantly reduces exposure for electrical workers.
INCREASE SAFETY TO REDUCE DOWNTIME
Another option to consider—one that is fairly new to the U.S. market—is shielded solid insulated switchgear technology. Shielded Solid Insulated Switchgear (2SIS) uses solid insulation made from silicon, resin or elastomer and is coated by a grounded conductive layer that wraps around the switchgear’s live parts to eliminate the risk of arcing.
Since each bus bar is separated by the insulation, 2SIS inherently prevents them from interacting. The Shielded Solid material in updated medium voltage switchgear solutions reduces the likelihood of the conductors faulting due to a poor environment, eliminating arc flash risk and limiting system outages.
It’s no secret the electrical industry is transforming quickly, and adapting to modern infrastructure needs is becoming a necessity. There are many different options on the market today that can reduce costs, simplify maintenance and increase lifespan.
It’s time for industry professionals to adjust—aging systems were not built to handle this bandwidth. Without changes, repairs and failure will continue. Whether a contractor is considering a connected technology platform or an upgrade in electrical equipment to address maintenance and safety, the time has come to take steps toward the future of the electrical industry.
Nothing operates without electricity, so the health of the electrical infrastructure that works behind the scenes should be a vital concern to your plant. Like any engineered system, electrical power distribution systems cannot be designed and constructed to operate 100% of the time indeﬁnitely. To help ensure electrical reliability, facility management should:
make room in the op-ex budget for planned maintenance activities, and
put a strategy in place to optimize the budget and reduce unplanned downtime.
A properly planned and executed electricalmaintenance strategy is a vital component in supporting electrical workplace safety, business continuity, and optimized total cost of ownership. Plant managers should schedule proactively and employ a variety of approaches to maintain electrical distribution equipment. Even though reactive maintenance activities typically cost three to four times more, planned maintenance activities often are deferred because of high productivity objectives and tight maintenance budgets. NFPA 70B-2016 Annex Q-2 provides an example of costly reactive maintenance:
An industrial plant experienced damage totaling $100,000 (USD), not counting the cost of downtime. It was discovered that dirt, gummy deposits and iron filings in the main switchgear caused the failure. The cost of this event would have supported a compre¬hensive electrical preventive maintenance program covering all of the plant’s electrical distribution system for several years.
The best way to avoid such a major financial loss is to reduce the risk of an unplanned outage. This requires time, effort, planning, and money. A comprehensive maintenance strategy should incorporate all electrical power distribution equipment, regardless of the manufacturer, to ensure that electrical equipment and components operate safely and reliably as they were originally designed and intended.
It is important to keep in mind that any individual maintenance on separate pieces of equipment or components does not ensure a completely coordinated and reliable power system. In a basic, everyday example, you probably have your vehicle’s tires rotated and balanced on a routine basis and purchase new tires when it’s time to do so. Does that ensure that your vehicle is reliable? A holistic view is required when electrical reliability is the goal.
Preventive maintenance is the traditional time-based maintenance strategy, typically built around a manufacturer’s recommended guidelines. For electrical distribution equipment, the industry-accepted OEM frequency is once every three years. If equipment is installed in harsh or extreme operating environments, the maintenance schedule is most likely more frequent.
Fast-forward to today’s increasingly complex, automated, and connected systems. Developing the proper maintenance strategy can be a quite an undertaking, given the different types and manufacturers of equipment within a facility.
When budgets are tight and processes are critical, a reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) strategy may be a viable consideration. RCM focuses on the operation of the power system as a whole by identifying the functions and failure modes of the most critical assets. Maintenance tasks are then determined and prioritized to minimize the possibility of failures. RCM lets facility management make quantifiable decisions on maintenance costs while increasing power system reliability.
RCM integrates preventive maintenance, predictive testing and inspection, run-to-fail, and proactive maintenance techniques. Companies looking to implement RCM should refer to the SAE standard JA1011, Evaluation Criteria for Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) Processes for guidance.
Whether the selected maintenance strategy is preventive, predictive, condition-based, or reliability-centered, proper planning and adequate resources are crucial. Most planned maintenance activities are conducted during a scheduled shutdown to minimize the impact on business operations. Following are key preparedness steps to take to help ensure a smooth, productive shutdown.
Ensure that electric maintenance personnel are qualified, as defined by OSHA/NFPA 70E. Facility personnel are rarely knowledgeable or effectively trained in the speciﬁc electrical equipment or power distribution systems that make up the electrical infrastructure of their respective facilities. Therefore, routine electrical equipment maintenance often is outsourced to outside maintenance contractors or local electrical contractors. Service personnel should be experienced in the specific electrical equipment or power system to be maintained.
Have updated one-line diagrams available. This type of diagram provides clear and precise information concerning the exact interconnections of all pieces of electrical equipment that make up the entire power distribution system. If a current diagram does not exist, a professional electrical engineer should be contracted and commissioned to create and maintain current electrical one-line diagrams and equipment name-plate data, including the location of each piece of electrical equipment.
Obtain OEM operations and maintenance manuals. If this documentation has been discarded, misplaced or lost, contact the manufacturer (or manufacturer’s rep) and request replacement copies. An internet search for these documents may yield positive results, as well.
Verify that equipment to be maintained is properly rated, set, and labeled. Before any maintenance program is initiated or contracted, it’s strongly recommended that a licensed professional electrical engineer perform a short circuit analysis, a time/current coordination study, and an arc ﬂash analysis of the power distribution system. The electrical engineer can also identify safety concerns, power system deﬁciencies, and/or circuit protection issues that might need to be addressed before any maintenance is performed.
Arrange for power during shutdown. Temporary electrical power during a planned maintenance shutdown might take the form of the use of the onsite optional standby generators.
Communicate expectations with service provider. Facility management needs to be very clear as to exactly which equipment is to be cleaned, inspected, maintained, serviced, and tested, as well the speciﬁc order in which each piece of electrical equipment is to be removed from service for inspections, maintenance, or testing.
With very few exceptions, electrical equipment should not be cleaned, inspected, maintained, serviced, or tested while it is energized. Performing maintenance tasks on energized equipment exposes personnel to the risk of shock, burns, or death.
Don’t look for easy ways out when it comes to managing electrical safety risks.
Plant safety is about much more than tasks on a checklist. It requires a commitment from every employee—from management to line workers—to maintain a culture of safety in all aspects of the operation. Over time, interpretations of certain safety standards can stray from the standards’ original intent, spurring myths about how best to meet safety requirements.
Myth #1: “Inconvenient” is the same as “infeasible” when it comes to de-energizing equipment for maintenance.
There’s no doubt that it is almost always inconvenient to shut down power on short notice to work on a piece of equipment. But that doesn’t mean it’s infeasible. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permits working on an energized circuit only under certain conditions, including when it’s “infeasible” to shut down power because of an increased hazard. However, there is a tendency to allow employees to work on live circuits just because it’s “inconvenient” to shut down power. This adds unnecessary risk and often leads to accidents.
In situations where it actually is infeasible to shut down the power, only electricians and technicians qualified to work on energized systems should perform the work. They should take all precautions, including wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and using tools certified for the conditions they encounter.
Myth #2: The more PPE the better.
Whether to wear PPE and how much to wear are not personal decisions. A component can fail at any time. Perfectly good breakers can fail suddenly during troubleshooting. If an arc flash occurs while simply opening a cabinet, wearing the correct PPE can mean the difference between life and death. Electricians and technicians must follow the detailed PPE standards specified in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. However, requiring workers to wear PPE rated for a much higher hazard level than the environment calls for will not necessarily make them safer.
“More PPE is not necessarily better,” says Kevin Taulbee, electrical engineer and safety trainer at Power Studies Inc. “Having the right PPE is what counts. Performing proper job hazard analysis is important for equipping workers with the correct PPE. Too many people just go out and purchase arc-flash moon suits and thick, high-voltage linemen gloves for their in-house maintenance and electrical workers. Class 2 electrical gloves aren’t necessary if they never get into anything over 480 volts, and they offer much less dexterity. As a result, an electrician may be more likely to drop a tool or lead when working in an energized panel.”
In addition to choosing the correct PPE, it is possible to choose handheld test tools that have been designed to make it easier to push buttons and turn dials when wearing heavy gloves. It is also possible to reduce the amount of PPE required in some instances by equipping workers with noncontact infrared (IR) tools such as thermal imagers, IR thermometers, and wireless monitoring sensors. These tools allow workers to capture data from outside the arc-flash zone. Alleviating the need to work inside an arc-flash boundary, particularly when switching or troubleshooting, will increase the overall level of safety for workers.
Myth #3: All test leads and fuses are created equal.
Often technicians regard test leads and fuses as basic commodity components, without giving these items’ quality much thought. Regardless of the quality of the multimeter, it’s only as safe as the test leads used with it and the fuses inside. These components provide critical protection against power surges and voltage spikes that can cause serious injury to the user.
The primary job for test leads is to connect the digital multimeter to the equipment being tested, but they also provide a first line of defense against electrocution. Test leads that are poorly made, worn, or aren’t rated for the job at hand can produce inaccurate readings and may pose a serious shock hazard if touched to the wrong wire. When choosing test leads, look for:
High-quality materials and rugged construction
Rating for the appropriate category and voltage level of the application—the CAT rating on the leads should match or exceed the category of the DMM
Exposed metal that matches the energy potential of a specific measurement.
Retractable probes, probe tip covers, or probes with shorter tips to avoid an inadvertent short circuit.
Pick high-quality replacement fuses
Today’s safety standards require digital multimeters to include special high-energy fuses that are designed to keep the energy generated by an electrical short within the fuse enclosure. This protects the user from electric shock and burns. When it’s time to replace fuses, always choose the high-energy fuses approved by the meter’s manufacturer. Cheaper generic replacement fuses increase the risk of serious injury.
Myth #4: The only way to accurately measure live voltage is with test lead contact.
In the past, attaching test lead probes or alligator clips directly to electrical conductors was the best way to get accurate results. However, this requires metal-to-metal contact, which increases the risk of arc flash and potential harm to both the person doing the measuring and the equipment being measured.
Recently a new technology was introduced that detects and measures voltage without metal-to-metal contact. This technology isolates the measurement tool from the voltage source under test. To measure voltage, electricians and technicians slide a single conducting wire into the open fork of the handheld test tool. Because they aren’t exposed to contact points with live voltage, the risk of electrical shock and arc flash is reduced.
The myths presented here represent just a small sampling of the safety issues to consider when working on energized equipment. The best way for a facility to ensure that employees fully understand and follow all relevant electrical safety regulations is to develop and actively maintain a solid safety culture based on the needs and environment of that specific facility.
Prevention through Design: Improving electrical safety in the plant
Better equipment design takes a step beyond training.
Workplace safety is always the top priority in manufacturing, but accidents still happen. Implementing a proactive Prevention through Design (PtD) program can be a step to mitigating electrical safety hazards and better protect workers in a plant.
Performing work without turning off power and verifying that a de-energized condition exists is a leading cause of electrical injuries. Electrical Safety Foundation International statistics show that there were 2,210 nonfatal electrical injuries in 2017, an increase of 35% over 2016. Shocks accounted for 1,330 nonfatal electrical injuries, while burns accounted for another 900 injuries.
Typically, the response to these accidents is to propose more safety training, but training alone is not enough. It is crucial to begin with design-first thinking to improve workplace electrical safety.
Prevention through Design (PtD) fundamentals
As a principle, PtD is an achievable solution to improve worker health and safety. Designing to reduce hazards before any electrical exposure happens in the workplace should be a top priority for industry safety professionals. PtD includes all efforts to prevent injuries by reducing exposure to hazards primarily through equipment design rather than administrative controls or personal protective equipment (PPE). This applies not only to products and equipment, but also processes and procedures used in the workplace.
It is a concept that is firmly taking hold within the safety and plant engineering community and efforts are being made to increase its adoption through inclusion in standards. Every manufacturing process has many inherent safety risks, so it’s important to identify and minimize potential hazards from the very beginning.
With PtD, new technologies and products reduce human exposure to hazards to achieve higher levels of safety, and electrical infrastructure are made safer for anyone entering the facility for the duration of its lifecycle. Product development by way of PtD also can simultaneously increase productivity, as it limits worker exposure to electrical hazards during routine maintenance and work activity while making the process faster and less complicated.
Reducing workplace injuries
PtD begins with identifying potential risks within a process or environment with the ultimate goal of eliminating risks whenever possible. In cases where the elimination of a risk is impossible or impractical, substitution (replacing the hazard) or engineering controls (isolating people from the hazard) is the most effective means to reduce workplace Injuries. Several PtD product innovations have been developed as a means of replacing or isolating people from the hazard, such as permanently mounted voltage indicators, voltage portals, data access ports, infrared windows for thermal inspection and absence of voltage testers (AVTs).
The process of de-energizing and verifying equipment in an electrically safe work condition before beginning work can help prevent electrical incidents. AVTs are permanently-mounted testing devices specifically designed with this in mind.
It’s beneficial to examine whether voltage testing can be optimized using PtD methodology because of how frequently it’s done in the manufacturing workplace. Every safety manager’s top priority is to provide a workplace free from serious safety and health hazards and to ensure the workplace is fully in compliance with all applicable standards, rules and regulations to maintain safety in his or her manufacturing facility.
Safety managers today are challenging electrical infrastructure suppliers to create dependable methods of identifying and verifying de-energized electrical equipment, and new products are improving electrical workers’ ability to safely verify that electrical equipment is in a de-energized state.
Utilizing an AVT device not only simplifies the voltage verification test to validate the absence of voltage, but it also helps meet the standards for electrical safety in the workplace. With the use of an AVT, qualified personnel mitigate electrical hazard risks by performing an absence of voltage test before equipment is accessed. The single push of a button on an AVT negates the traditional use of hand-held test equipment for this process. The AVT not only reduces the risk of exposure to electrical hazards, but also reduces a time-consuming process to a reliable, single push-button action.
Worldwide, industry implementation of PtD still has room for improvement. Administrative controls like warnings, labels, training, written procedures and PPE can protect workers from some electrical hazards but verifying absence of voltage and de-energizing equipment needs to be a clear, reliable and uncomplicated process.
The plant manager’s role in the PtD process is to establish a motivational force to promote designing for safety and protect workers by implementing PtD solutions that help reduce exposure to hazards throughout the facility. PtD methodology can be applied to existing tools, equipment and processes, but addressing safety early in the design process is more economical and should be the first option explored.
Safety pays when it comes to plants and factories. Electrical injuries account for one of the highest average workers’ compensation costs, with sourcesindicating the average direct cost of an electrical injury ranges from $50,000 to $80,000. The indirect costs can even exceed this by four times because of the ensuing property damage and repair, as well as lost productivity. Considering a total cost can approach $500,000, companies should think twice about how effective their safety program, procedures and tools are.
Thanks to PtD, the safety culture is changing. New technology like AVTs will continue to play an important role in electrical hazard reduction strategies for plants worldwide.
Advances in Paints and Coatings Have Long-Term Benefits
Specifying to meet facility sustainability needs means staying abreast of changes in products and applications
The new generation of paints and coatings is offering maintenance managers a range of potential benefits that were unavailable only a few years ago. In order to meet user demands related to ease of application, appearance, durability, and sustainability, manufacturers have reformulated existing products and introduced new ones.
These advances put an even higher priority on two challenges facing managers who specify these products for their institutional and commercial facilities: staying abreast of advances in paint and coating formulations and matching new-generation products to the specific needs of their buildings.
Focus on formulations
Social responsibility has become an increasing concern among both managers and manufacturers as they seek to continuously minimize harm to the environment and improve their image. Many of the enhancements in new paint and coating formulations involve reducing volatile organic compounds (VOC).
Earlier efforts by manufacturers had focused on VOCs in liquids that are released as paints dry. Over the past 30 years, 90 percent of VOCs have been eliminated from paints and coatings, aided by state VOC emissions standards, some of which are more stringent than federal standards.
Now scrutiny has expanded to include enhanced additives that yield long-term absorption from the air of harmful compounds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering tightening the ozone level standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65-70 ppb. As this decision nears, manufacturers are formulating new products to comply with the most stringent rules. One side benefit for managers is formulas with even lower VOC levels. LEED, the green building certification rating system, includes points for meeting low VOC standards.
Additional advances in new zero-VOC latex paints include using baking-soda-like technology to reduce indoor odors. No silica is added, so it also can withstand frequent washings without losing its odor-reducing properties. It also has antimicrobial properties, so it resists mildew formation, and it offers easier application and better durability and hides characteristics.
Comprised of a primer with high-adhesion properties and a topcoat, it is environmentally friendly and is low VOC and free of hazardous pollutants. It also helps meet stringent regulatory demands, and it resists strong acids and strong bases. It is unaffected by solvents up to 300 degrees, and workers can apply it in a range of thicknesses with standard spray-painting equipment.
Water-based formulations with natural additives now exceed the sustainability performance of their oil-based counterparts. As a result of this growing trend, water-based paints now represent about 80 percent of the market, while oil-based paints represent 20 percent.
Sustainability demands also are driving the development of other new waterborne paints, which are 80 percent water with other solvents, such as ethyl glycol. These paints are broadening applications to prevent metal corrosion as an option to more expensive metal alloys.
Electrical safety standards are evolving. Are you up to speed?
Are you doing everything you can to keep your workers safe?
In 2018, Plant Services conducted its first electrical safety survey, and the results were head-turning. Close to one-quarter of survey respondents said that they had been involved in an arc flash event, and 60% reported knowing someone who had been involved in such an event. These frightening incidents not only pose a risk to worker health and safety, but also they can disrupt business, damage equipment, create legal liability issues, increase insurance premiums, damage a company’s reputation, and result in regulatory fines. As industrial technologies and regulations continue to evolve, what’s the best way to keep your high-efficiency electrical equipment maintained while still keeping your workers safe?
Here are three pieces of guidance from industry experts to help you better navigate electrical safety issues.
Performing risk assessments
Risk assessments are critical to evaluating a PDS’s reliability and are most effective when facility managers are conducting them proactively. However, the unfortunate reality is that many assessments are conducted reactively, with managers commissioning inspections of their electrical infrastructure only after an event that has seriously affected personnel or operations has occurred. Such an event may be an arc-flash incident, a ground fault occurrence, an electrical fire, a shock event, or an unexpected power outage.
To avoid negative and unsafe events, electrical power engineers recommend conducting comprehensive assessments of electrical systems every five years. Because most electrical equipment has an average life span of 20 years, it is good practice to assess the entire PDS every five years to determine the present state and deterioration rate of each piece of equipment. Also, because electrical equipment deteriorates at different rates, the inspections and risk assessments provide facility managers a firm understanding concerning the present state of their PDS and information as to where or when they may need to replace or modernize a piece of equipment or enhance equipment maintenance. Understanding a PDS’s maintenance or upgrade requirements will give a better picture of the system’s reliability and risks.
Work to eliminate or mitigate risks
A notable change in NFPA 70E 2018 is a heightened focus on hazard elimination. In fact, the hierarchy of risk control methods has now moved from an informational note to part of the standard’s mandatory language. When it comes to implementing safety-related work practices, the standard clearly states that hazard elimination shall be the first priority. This means that taking steps just to mitigate a hazard may not be enough to protect your employees and plant and reduce your liability.
The risk control methods essentially break down into six areas: elimination, substitution, engineering controls, warnings, administrative controls, and PPE.
If elimination isn’t an option, then substitution is the next best thing. This could mean opting to use less-dangerous equipment, such as nonelectrical or battery-operated tools. Engineering controls are next in the hierarchy and can be as simple as ensuring ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection or as advanced as changing the relay logic in your power distribution system.
An estimate of the likelihood of occurrence of an arc flash incident
One important change to NFPA 70E was the addition of Table 130.5(C), which states that on electrical equipment in any condition (normal or abnormal), performing infrared thermography and other non-contact inspections outside the restricted approach boundary does not increase the likelihood of occurrence of an arcing fault and arc flash incident, so additional PPE is not required. However, the table further clarifies that this does not include opening equipment doors or covers that expose bare energized conductors or circuit parts – which specifically does increase the likelihood of occurrence of an arcing fault and arc flash.
Although not specifically mentioned in Table 130.5(C), opening an EMSD cover like that on an infrared viewing pane does not expose bare conductors or circuit parts. One can thus interpret that in this instance, no PPE would be required. In this manner, the use of an EMSD and changing the work process to keep the equipment in a closed and guarded condition while performing the CBM task seems to follow substitution stage guidelines of the hierarchy of control.