From 2006 to 2010, 8,600 structure fires were reported at US industrial or manufacturing facilities, resulting in 11 fatalities, 230 injuries and $753 million in direct property damage, according to NFPA research.1 Of these fires, 16 percent (nearly one in six) were caused by electrical failures or malfunctions.
At the end of 2010, OSHA charged an employer with “willful and serious” electrical safety violations at 30 of its facilities across the US. The employer had exposed workers to the potentially fatal hazards of shock, electrocution and arc flash.2
Do I have your attention? Your plant’s electrical systems is a little like your body’s cardiovascular system. It’s often forgotten until something goes wrong, and then, it’s catastrophic. But with sensible maintenance and planning for growth and expansion, you can ensure your electrical system and its components will go about their work behind the scenes, keeping your plant humming along without downtime or more serious consequences. And today, just like we monitor our cardio functions while we exercise, a bevy of new, smart and networked equipment can let you know when and where a problem exists in your plant’s electrical system.
Aging gracefully… or not
The electrical system often is taken for granted until it’s time to upgrade or replace a major component. “For the most part, I think it falls under ‘out of sight, out of mind,’” says Jake Ten Haken, director of integrated services, Interstates Companies, a member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). “Most of these [systems’] electric rooms don’t have people going into them. The rooms are relatively clean, and the equipment is working. But because of the age of the equipment, the owners run into reliability problems and issues with finding replacement parts. At 20 years, you’re starting to get to the end of the useful life of most equipment.”
“We’re finding many facilities with electrical systems that are 30 to 40 years old,” adds Jaron Vande Hoef, Interstates senior project manager/principal. “A lot of these facilities are still operating on their original electrical systems. The equipment has been maintained but never upgraded or improved.”
The issue of locating replacement parts is a real stumbling block, if not a downtime creator. “It affects the processor’s reliability because, as things start to fail, [processors] no longer have the parts on hand to make a quick replacement. Also, aged equipment is generally less safe than equipment that has been designed according to more modern standards and codes,” adds Vande Hoef.
Credits -Wayne Labs
Senior Technical Editor, Food Engineering Magazine.