Reliability & Maintenance Center Safety

After the Storm: Safety Reminders

EP Editorial Staff | January 21, 2019

Following certain precautions after severe weather events can help ensure personnel safety, prevent costly damage to physical equipment, and minimize financial losses in a plant.

When it comes to your plant’s electrical systems and the equipment they power, winter weather requires significant upfront planning and preparation. But what about after a storm or blizzard?

Chad Kennedy, manager of Industry Standards at Schneider Electric, Foxboro, MA (schneider-electric.com), offered the following post-event reminders to include in your site’s weather-mitigation plans.

BE CAUTIOUS WITH ELECTRICITY.

In cases of severe weather, it may be impossible to completely avoid disruption. Following certain precautions can help ensure safety of personnel, prevent costly damage to physical equipment, and minimize financial losses. Outdoor equipment should be examined before attempting to operate. High wind levels can blow snow into electrical enclosures through any small gaps or vents, resulting in equipment that isn’t safe to use without repair or replacement. In addition to the potential damage to outdoor equipment, if the utility power was lost and the site did not have on-site generators or temporary power sources, there will likely be frozen pipes. Examination and remedial-repair actions to any affected piping systems are best undertaken before power to the building heating sources is restored in those areas. Electrical equipment, including any on-site generators or temporary power sources, should only be maintained and serviced by qualified personnel in accordance with NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

DON’T CLEAN EQUIPMENT.

Do not attempt to clean any electrical equipment that has been contaminated with water or other contaminants. Do not apply cleaning agents or abrasives to any current-carrying portions of electrical equipment to remove debris, residues, or other substances. If the repair-or-replace decision has not been pre-determined in your disaster-recovery plan, contact the equipment manufacturer for instructions. Attempting to reuse damaged equipment can result in an immediate failure or a gradual deterioration failure and is potentially hazardous to personnel and property.

BRING IN A PROFESSIONAL.

Replacing equipment should only be done by qualified personnel. Where no damage at the site is evident, the power to system loads should be gradually restored. It is recommended that an electrical professional be contacted to inspect the system for hidden damage and to ensure proper system operation and safety.

Remember that the safety of employees is the first priority for any facility. Thus, your storm-preparation plan should be communicated before a weather event. If, however, that plan hasn’t been duly communicated, a careful inspection of the work area is mandatory before allowing personnel back into the facility.

A proper weather-mitigation plan that includes pre- and post-event steps can provide your business with the foundation to maintain continuity through the winter months, along with some much-needed peace of mind. EP

To learn more about weather-mitigation planning and preparation, visit Schneider Electric Energy Services.

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