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Electrical Safety in the Workplace

Electricity…Electricity…Electricity…we cannot live without it!  Electricity is so embedded into the fabric of our lives that we often take it for granted without notice of its significance.  Before you go to bed tonight walk through your living quarters and take notice of the green, red and orange LEDs peering at you from dark corners – electricity busy at work while we sleep.

In the refrigeration world, our wonderful compressors are not very useful unless they have a reliable and safe supply of electricity.  For the most part, we rely on our local electrical utility to provide us with a reliable, clean and secure electricity supply.  As far as safety, in the United States, we have codes, standards and certifications such as National Fire Protection Association 70 National Electric Code, National Fire Protection Association 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, Occupational Safety and Health Act and Underwriters Laboratories that protect us from the potential dangers of electricity such as shock, fire and explosions from an arc flash event.

While it is true that energized components and conductors are usually safely mounted in enclosures, there are times when those of us who work in the industrial and commercial refrigeration industry need to interact with, and actually touch energized components with meters and tools when trying to troubleshoot or repair equipment. This can be a very dangerous task and is a primary concern of ours when designing and building electrical equipment.

So, we would like to hear from you – what are you doing in the workplace to safely handle electrical hazards?  Do you understand NFPA 70E?  Are you complying with NFPA 70E?

Vilter Manufacturing will have a booth at the upcoming Refrigeration Engineers and Technicians Association 2012 National Conference in San Antonio, Texas from November 5-9.  We will have our NFPA 70E inspired motor starter with us and I will be presenting a short piece on our motor starter on Friday morning November 9th.  For more details, visit http://www.reta.com/convention/2012/index.html.

I hope to hear from you soon – stay safe!

Dennis Doody
Project Manager – Motor Starters
Vilter Manufacturing – Emerson Climate Technologies

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. buynacek #

    I have never seen an arc flash accident in the factory or field personally, but looking at burn photos was enough to really change my mind about electrical panel safety! I am definitely more careful these days and make sure that the contractors that I work with play it safe. RSES published a nice guide in May 2011 that talks about selecting motor starters to reduce arc flash. Google ‘arc flash motor starter’ and the 4-page PDF should pop up or go to http://www.rses.org/assets/rses_journal/0511_Motors.pdf.

    October 9, 2012
    • emersonclimate #

      Buynacek,

      Thank you for your response and for participating on our Climate Technologies blog. I also appreciate the “smart and safe motor starter” article that you linked to your reply.

      Vilter Manufacturing is designing and manufacturing similar smart and safety conscious motor starters for our ammonia refrigeration industry. Our goal is to keep folks out of energized motor starters but then give them the tools to set-up, troubleshoot and run diagnostics on the outside of the motor starter away from any internal electrical hazards.

      You can find our brochure at the following link or in the attached pdf.
      http://www.emersonclimate.com/Documents/Vilter/Product_Brochures/2012_Motor_Starter.pdf

      We appreciate any feedback.

      Thank you for your response.

      Dennis

      December 4, 2012
  2. Working with live electricity is something we at Northeast Cooling do every day. As part of our safety routine we inspect all meter test leads for breaks or cracks in insulation on a daily basis. We also verify that meters & wiggy’s are working correctly by testing on a known live circuit before using on equipment being serviced. Since testing voltage is necessary on most service calls it’s extremely important that test equipment including meters are in good working order!

    October 15, 2012
    • emersonclimate #

      Freezer Repair Illinois

      Thank you for responding to my blog.

      I am glad to hear that your company takes great care ensuring that your voltage meters are working properly and are well maintained.

      Ensuring that your voltage meter is working properly and using a properly rated voltage meter is a critical component of NFPA 70E 2012 Article 120.1 (5) when establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition. Before and after each test it is important to verify that your voltage meter is operating correctly. It is also important to treat any conductors and components as if they are energized until they are proven to be deenergized; therefore, they must be treated as an electrical hazard and certain precautions per NFPA 70E must be followed.

      Do you follow your company’s safety program or do you follow your customer’s safety program? In many cases I see a blend, and the more stringent requirements are followed.

      Thanks again for your participation.

      Dennis

      December 4, 2012
  3. refrigerationguy #

    The 2013 IEEE IAS Electrical Safety Workshop will be held March 11-15, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. The IEEE IAS Electrical Safety Workshop was established to accelerate advancements in workplace electrical safety. Dennis Doody and Phil Allen will be giving a technical presentations on NFPA 70E: Reducing and Eliminating Arc Flash Hazards through Electrical Design Considerations.

    NFPA 70E raised the standard for electrical workplace safety and, therefore, fundamentally changed workers’ methods in performing electrical/mechanical troubleshooting and maintenance. Over time, these higher safety standards resulting from NFPA 70E have inspired better electrical system designs that increased productivity and reduced workers’ exposure to arc flash and shock hazard risks. NFPA 70E and end-users challenged electrical designers to develop another set of functions to simplify an end-user’s objective to maintain energized or de-energized electrical equipment in accordance with NFPA 70E. These functions put maintenance and troubleshooting tools on the outside of energized electrical equipment and eliminate workers’ exposure to voltage inside of the equipment. The recent redesign of an ammonia refrigeration compressor motor starter panel accomplished all these goals by using a touch screen that communicates with internal intelligent components, isolated power and control compartments, permanent electrical safety devices (PESDs), and electrical door interlocks. Using these design considerations allows workers to troubleshoot, run diagnostics and configure electrical equipment while it is energized, but without exposure to energized components or conductors. When workers need access to the inside of the panel, in a de-energized state, PESDs provide voltage verification that meet and exceed the requirements of NFPA 70E (1-6) Creating an Electrically Safe Work Condition without voltage exposure. Safety-related designs must be coupled with user training and written lock-out tag-out procedures.

    January 29, 2013

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