Christopher Coache

NFPA 70E Series: The things needed before normal operation is consider safe (PART 1)

Blog Post created by Christopher Coache Employee on Mar 9, 2017

As I put this blog together I realized that it would be lengthier than I expected. So bear with me for two blogs regarding this issue. Normal operation seems like an easy concept to grasp but the number of questions regarding this issue is astounding.

NFPA 70E® does not define normal operation. Regardless of what you considered to be “normal operation” of your equipment, NFPA 70E has conditions before it is permitted to occur. These are properly installed, properly maintained, closed and secured doors, covers in place and secure, and no sign of impending failure. Normal operation is also a condition addressed in the manufacturer’s operating instructions. What do these mean? (Remember back to one of my first blogs where you are the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) for NFPA 70E. It comes into play here.)

Properly installed – Someone will need to determine that the equipment installation meets not only any applicable standard but also any requirements set by the manufacturer. This is not limited to electrical standards since things like improperly installed pressure systems for electrical equipment may affect the electrical safety of that equipment. Often building systems are inspected by an authority outside of the employer/owner. A lot of equipment that falls under NFPA 70E does not have the local electrical inspector verifying that the installation follows any rules. Equipment is installed by an employee or sometimes by an outside contractor. There is no governmental oversight. How do you enforce the National Electrical Code® for equipment installed by an employee? You must make sure that any equipment is properly installed. If not you are potentially putting your employee at risk of an injury if they attempt normal operation of that equipment. This safety issue is not addressing the tasks that require an energized work permit. This covers the person operating a HID breaker to turn the factory lights on each morning, for example.

Properly maintained – Equipment was in a new condition when it was installed and at that time everything is expected to be in order. The fact is that the equipment slowly begins to show signs of wear and tear. Motors, circuit breakers, even transformers are not pieces of equipment that should be left alone. They require maintenance. Most manufacturers will provide recommendations on what is minimally required to maintain their equipment. Some industries provide guidance on maintenance. NFPA® 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance contains a wealth of information on the subject. Proper maintenance is not just the act of fixing, adjusting or filling fluids. There is a time aspect that is just as important. A piece of equipment may only need proper maintenance every year or two in one installation. That same piece of equipment in another installation may require monthly maintenance to be considered properly maintained. You must make sure that any equipment is properly maintained. If not you are potentially putting your employee at risk of an injury if they attempt normal operation of that equipment. This safety issue is not addressing the tasks that require an energized work permit. This covers the person operating a HID breaker to turn the factory lights on each morning, for example.

Closed and secured doors – This one causes a lot of heartburn to some. This takes a little judgement of the operator. Use the knowledge that this is in the section addressing normal operation. A hinged door to get access to a panelboard is meant to be opened for someone to gain access for the normal operation of that HID circuit breaker. That is not the same for an access door that is intended to be closed and secured during operation of a transformer. You must make sure that equipment doors are properly secured. This will require proper training of the person interacting with the equipment. If the inappropriate doors are open, your employee is potentially at risk of an injury if they attempt normal operation of that equipment. This safety issue is not addressing the tasks that require an energized work permit. This covers the person operating a HID breaker to turn the factory lights on each morning, for example.

Next Time: The rest of the things needed before normal operation is consider safe (PART 2).

 

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