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Electrical Preventative Maintenance Programs

- April 19, 2018 by Diego Garcia (View all posts by Diego)

Electrical Preventative Maintenance (EPM) programs are one of the most overlooked safety programs in the workplace. Perhaps this is because when it comes to electrical— “there are no moving parts so why would it need preventative maintenance like machinery”? Regardless of the reason an organization might not have an EPM program, the following is motive to ensure a proper EPM program is in place.

First, what is an EPM program and why is it important?

Like all preventative maintenance programs, EPM is simply a check-up, reconditioning and test of your systems. As important as regularly changing fluids and seals in motors; electrical systems require the same scheduled care since failure would mean a serious loss of productivity. Moreover, repairs resulting from catastrophic failures can easily surpass the value of the original item.

So, what should one do and how often?

Simply put, do as the manufacturer recommends. All electrical equipment should be tested by the Underwriters Laboratory against nationally recognized standards. Therefore, safety-related information for your electrical components exist and should be adhered to. From extension cords to electric generators—safety-related information exists! On items like extension cords and power strips this information is usually found on a tag attached to it, on more sophisticated items, this information will be in detail in the technical and service manuals.

We need to conduct PM on  extension cords?! Simply put, yes.

Extension cords should be inspected before use to ensure there is no damage, including frays, exposed copper or missing grounding plugs. While this is not preventative maintenance in the traditional sense, like lubing gears or changing fluids, this sort of PM is also meant to prevent catastrophic failure. The National Fire Protection Association’s report for 2008 explains that electrical fires, electrical failures or malfunctions result in an average of 53,600 home fires each year and account for $1.4 billion in property damage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reports that during 2007, workers suffered 1,100 electrical burn injuries and 1,480 electrical shock injuries in the private sector. Aside from the possibility of workplace accidents, an electrical issue with would mean a huge disruption and cost to any business.

So what should I do to start an EPM program?

A great source to begin at is the National Fire Protection Agency’s standards 70B and 70E. These standards are essentially guides for starting an effective EPM program. Generally, an organization has to consider the environment in which they operate—hot, cold, dusty or wet; the operational pace—is electricity used continuously or intermittently; and the experience of the maintenance staff.

The frequency of an EPM inspection will depend on the technical data that comes with the equipment and the above mentioned. In general, equipment that should be part of your EPM program includes switchgear, circuit breakers, connections, flexible cords, conduits, raceways and enclosures, electric motors, battery stations and chargers, as well as emergency power supply systems. Aside from correcting deficiencies typical inspection procedure include cleaning, dusting, tightening loose items, checking for moisture build-up, ensuring proper ventilation and in some instances infrared inspections.

There are many unexpected challenges that a business faces to operate successfully. However, a good preventative maintenance program will prevent many equipment related issues and allow an organization to focus on business generating operations—instead of “putting out fires.”

If you don’t have a qualified in house electrician to manage and conduct preventative maintenance requirements, please check out my other blog on selecting an electrical contractor.