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7 Electrical Mistakes Facility Managers Should Avoid

Facility managers have more than enough lists of things they must do. When it comes to electricity and electrical safety, having a list of what not to do may make safety easier, so review these seven electrical don’ts and make sure they don’t exist in your facility.

1) Don't allow maintenance personnel to work "live"

When equipment needs maintenance or repairs, it must be de-energized. The rule is simple: shut the power off. Too often, employees think it will be much quicker and easier to just make that little repair, and that shutting the equipment down takes too much effort. These shortcuts can be deadly. 

In addition to the electrical hazard, equipment starting up while in service can trap or otherwise injure the worker. While you are at it, enforce the use of lock out/tag out procedures which prevent the power from being turned on while the equipment is undergoing maintenance. 

2) Don't fake a ground connection

Your facility may have outdated receptacles that only have two-prong outlets. While these may only exist in office areas, ungrounded receptacles cannot be replaced with grounded, three-prong receptacles unless a ground is available for connection. There are many ways that the problem can be resolved, but just installing a grounded receptacle is not one of them. 

While you are considering this, don't allow any employees to cut the ground prong off a cord. Sure, the cord will plug in that way, but you end up with a disaster looking for a place to happen. 

3) Don't skip GFCI requirements

Unless the National Electric Code (NEC) says otherwise, assume that if it is outdoors, or near water, it must be on a GFCI. Receptacles within 6 feet of a sink or water supply must have this protection. If the floors in your facility are frequently wet, you also need this protection. 

GFCI requirements are extensive, but you can meet the code through several methods. Individual receptacles can be installed or entire circuits protected by GFCI breakers. Cords can also be equipped with GFCI protection when a suitable receptacle is not available. 

4) Don't think low voltage doesn't need a ground

Telephone, satellite, and cable do need a ground. The voltage on the system is low, but it is voltage. The NEC has specific grounding requirements for all of these systems and your facility must meet code requirements. 

Outdoor antennas must have a discharge system and the discharge must be away from any combustible materials. Grounding is designed to prevent a buildup of static charges and voltage surges. 

5) Don't forget to maintain test equipment and labeling

You have warned your workers that they can only work with the power turned off. Your technician went to the electrical panel and threw the breaker for the equipment that needed repair, so how could the technician possibly be electrocuted? 

Changes and upgrades in your facility can lead to changes in your electrical panels. Even if changes have not been made, are you sure that the panel is labeled correctly? Are your employees actually testing for power after the circuit is shut off? Is the test equipment working? Make sure that workers test a known live circuit against one that is shut off before assuming the power is really off. 

6) Don't just assume your facility is grounded

You may see the tip of ground rod and an acorn connection that looks perfectly fine. Unfortunately, this does not mean your facility is grounded. Mistakes happen and connections break. Have your facility tested. In some cases, you may even find that additional grounding is required. If the resistance to ground is higher than mandated, you must take additional steps to ensure safety.

7) Don't forget about OSHA, NFPA, and NEC changes

Code requirements underwent changes during 2014 with continued changes and compliance dates for 2015. NFPA 70E outlines these changes with new requirements for arc flash and arc blast safety. If you are not aware of what the changes require, you will not be in compliance. Take the time now to improve the safety of your facility.

Bob Sheppard is the founder, president, and general manager of Southwest Energy Systems

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