2016 – spring Issue

Managing Electrical Changes

Change is all around us. The world news, the weather,the next version of iPhone or Android cell phone being released, trends in music and clothing ? the list goes on and on. What most of us don?t consider changing is the way we do things or, more specifically, the electrical systems that support the plants and facilities that we use to manufacture products.

At the same time, we keep making improvements that require changes to this infrastructure. There are several key items that should be reviewed to ensure these changes don?t adversely affect the integrity of your electrical system.

Electrical Documentation

  • If you don?t have it documented through drawings or a load list, then you cannot manage the changes that are happening. You don?t know what is new or old or what was included in the last review.
  • Having a system for maintaining these documents allows you to know what you have and what you are affecting when you make changes.
  • These documents are developed at the beginning of a project for a specific purpose; this continues through the maintenance and operation of the facility. You can't manage it if you don't know what it is.

Safety Procedures (Lockout/Tagout)

  • If a motor is added but not put onto the procedures for safe lockout/tagout, then how will that be done safely in the future?
  • One example is a list used to locate the motor in an electric room. If you don?t know where the starter for that motor is located, then you cannot lock it out and safely work on that equipment. Either that, or you spend a lot of time looking through the room, trying to find the motor starter.
  • Are the proper clearances being followed for safe work and maintenance of this equipment? Prioritizing proper clearances as equipment is squeezed into an existing electric room allows your people to work safely.

Area Classification Documentation

  • Ensuring everyone is knowledgeable about the specific area classification and installation requirements that are in place on your site is essential for installation of any new equipment. This documentation should be shared with your maintenance crews and outside contractors. Without this documentation, the next piece of equipment that is replaced or added to your facility might not be rated for the area in which it is installed. This is a large liability that could cause failure of the new device and result in damage to the entire facility.

Electrical Studies Updates

  • There are many items that are considered when your facility is originally built, such as: Loading of the system. Can it handle the faults that might occur? What are the safety procedures that should be followed? Is the equipment properly labeled for Arc Flash and Short Circuit requirements? Is the protection of the electrical equipment set up correctly?
  • If these items are not reviewed when changes are happening, you could be adding problems to your system that might wait to show up until the least opportune time.

Electrical Policies and Qualified Person Training

  • As your system continues to change, your people need to adapt to these changes. This might mean that there are new work procedures for a new piece of equipment. There might be a new VFD that requires different training to set up or make changes. Ensuring your people know how to work with the equipment is essential to operating your facility efficiently.
  • You must also have many safety related trainings in place. Checking that these are refreshed for people who have been working there for years as well as making sure that new people are properly trained is very important. It is crucial to have a regular schedule for these refresher courses and a set orientation plan in place.

Change doesn?t have to be daunting or fraught with unforeseen challenges. Reviewing these major points will help keep your facility running smoothly and safely during any electrical infrastructure changes.