When you consider that a facility’s electrical infrastructure typically consists of: service entrance switchgear and switchboards, distribution panelboards, power panels, motor control centers, various sized circuit breakers, distribution transformers, fused disconnect switches, PDUs, UPS units, battery banks, standby generators, paralleling switchgear and switchboards, automatic transfer switches, and assorted power cables, it’s easy to understand why electrical work is often outsourced. Given the increased complexity and interconnectivity of systems, hiring contractors to perform specialized tasks may prove to be more cost effective than having that experienced level of technician(s) on the payroll.
Facility management needs to ensure that all electrical workers – whether in-house staff or third-party contractors − are “qualified”, as defined by OSHA and NFPA 70E, to work on the specific electrical equipment that is to be cleaned, inspected, or maintained. The newly-released 2015 edition of NFPA 70E defines a “qualified person” as: “one who has demonstrated skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to identify and avoid the hazards involved.”
Qualify Third-Party Contractors
Since the facility owner/host employer is responsible for workplace safety, it is critical to exercise due diligence before outsourcing electrical work. Conduct a thorough interview and obtain applicable references. Topics to address include:
- Ask specific questions relative to Field Personnel Competency Training to determine product knowledge.
- Inquire about their experience level with specific electrical equipment or power systems to be maintained.
- Find out about their safety training program.
- Is their personnel protective equipment meet the requirements of ASTM and NFPA 70E?
- Review their operational safety record (worker’s comp modifier and Lost Workday Incident Rate).
A licensed professional electrical engineer experienced in power distribution equipment can assist facility management in the qualification and selection process.
Provide Necessary Documentation
To help ensure electrical workplace safety and the integrity of the work to be performed, facility engineers should provide copies of the operations and maintenance manuals that accompanied the original electrical equipment to the contracted service providers. If these are not on hand, an online search by the manufacturer’s name and electrical equipment identification may yield the desired results. In addition, exact, detailed, and up-to-date one-line diagrams of the entire electrical power distribution system should be made available.
Clearly Communicate Expectations
Facility’s management needs to be very clear as to exactly which equipment is to be cleaned, inspected, maintained, serviced, and tested, as well the specific order the electrical equipment should be removed from service for maintenance. Also, a job-specific safety plan should be documented and communicated to all electrical workers, including contractors, for each project/job being undertaken. The plan needs to be consistent with the requirements of the facility’s electrical safe work practices policy. Depending upon the complexity of the work scope involved, the job-specific safety plan may cover a variety of topics,
Finally, hiring third-party contractors does not absolve the owners or managers of the commissioning company from complying with electrical safe work practices. Facility management is ultimately responsible for all onsite safety requirements and must document and communicate known hazards per NFPA 70E to all onsite electrical workers.
For more resources on reducing personnel and facility risks, click here.