Minimize disruption in power failures

by on May 12, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Most often, safety pros think of electrical safety in terms of the human cost – one mistake can mean a fatal injury.

But more often, electrical incidents disrupt operations (and in extreme cases, disrupt the local community), creating a high business cost. That’s why most companies focus on maintaining electrical systems. But maintenance itself can disrupt power supplies if workers make mistakes.

Here are three examples to watch out for, according to H. Landis Floyd, principal electrical safety consultant at DuPont in Wilmington, DE.

1. A chemical manufacturing plant’s leaked chlorine gas to the community. Fortunately, it was a coastal plant and winds blew the gas out to sea.

Root: A cascading failure – a power outage from the power company, followed by the plant’s backup generators’ failure to start.

Fix: Test backup generators regularly, especially during winter months. You don’t want to find out they don’t work when you need them, a problem that could affect the safety of the whole plant.

2. A hospital suffered a four-hour power outage caused by its own maintenance staff. Workers were modifying the company’s backup power transfer system, but an arc flash incident burned a contract worker and knocked out both normal and standby power.

Fix: Make sure contractors are well qualified to maintain backup systems, and ask them how they’ll avoid disrupting normal power during their work.

3. A single crew at an electrical utility knocked out power for six hours in a major metropolitan area.

Problem: The crew forgot to remove protective safety grounds before re-energizing a section that had been shut down for maintenance.

Fix: Train workers offline in task sequences. Have checklists ready to avoid the possibility of a similar oversight. And talk to electrical workers about the potential impact an error could have on operations.

photo credit: harmonica pete

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