Electrical Safety / Electrical Systems / OSHA Compliance / Industrial Safety

Innovative electrical safety technology

Sheila Kennedy explores tools, training, and materials to help you meet or exceed compliance standards.

By Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, contributing editor

Electrical safety regulations and standards attempt to mitigate the many, assorted electrical hazards found in industrial environments. To meet the challenge, providers of tools, training, and materials used to help manufacturers meet or exceed compliance standards are continually innovating, all with the common goal of helping organizations prevent electrical events such as arc flash, shock, thermal burns, falls, and electrocution—and the consequences thereof.

Safety by design

One step in the process of verifying that equipment is in an electrically safe state involves a test for the absence of voltage. The VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester (AVT) from Panduit simplifies this process for qualified personnel by automating the voltage verification process. It complies with NFPA 70E lockout/tagout procedures.

With the push of a button, AVT completes the required six-step testing process in seconds—far faster than handheld portable test instruments. “This minimizes the risk of exposure to electrical hazards by verifying the absence of voltage before equipment is accessed and lowering the risk of human error,” explains Marty Kronz, manager of business development for Prevention through Design (PtD) at Panduit.

The Voltage Test Station (VTS) from Grace Engineered Products is a permanent electrical safety device (PESD) that helps quickly and safely validate zero electrical energy from outside the electrical cabinet. The safety-by-design product with high impedance built in detects the presence or absence of voltage, malfunctions of the disconnect switch, and unintended release of stored electrical energy.

The VTS is a “combination device that allows qualified electrical workers to perform an absence-of-voltage test using an adequately rated test instrument in addition to visual verification of voltage presence,” says Bhanu Srilla, technical product director at Grace Engineered Products. “These two devices are connected independently to the point of lockout and are brought to the door.”

Virtual validation

Simulating industrial environments before implementation improves safety and reduces the time, costs, and risks of deployment. The Virtual Engineering Platform (VEP) from Honeywell Process Solutions is a cloud-based virtual platform for testing distributed control systems (DCS) to be deployed to process industries. Stakeholders can collaborate and solve issues before cutover regardless of their location.

“The ability to design, develop, and test through simulation applications for control, safety, and the human machine interface (HMI) reduces the risk of unsafe conditions before these applications are deployed on the DCS in the process plant,” observes Girish Bhat, senior director of engineering at Honeywell Process Solutions.

Ultrasonic detection

Ultrasound and infrared analyses are complementary condition-based maintenance strategies used to determine electrical asset reliability and safety of the maintenance team. Each technology provides its own unique information to the maintenance team by collecting data on an electrical asset under full load in a safe and guarded condition, explains Rudy Wodrich, VP of engineering services at IRISS.

Arcing, tracking, and corona have unique sound characteristics in the ultrasound spectrum, and ultrasound equipment helps detect these conditions. The Sonus XT from IRISS is small and lightweight as well as cost-effective, Wodrich asserts. It comes with airborne and structure-borne probes, making it applicable for any type of mechanical or electrical inspection task.

Personal protective equipment

Flame-resistant garments provide essential personnel protection but have long lacked in comfort and mobility. Nomex Comfort from DuPont is a new PPE fabric technology that delivers the inherent heat- and flame-resistant protection of Nomex in a lightweight, breathable, quick-drying fabric for extreme performance, according to DuPont. Garments made of Nomex Comfort dry faster because much less moisture is absorbed as compared with cellulosic fibers such as cotton and viscose.

“In addition to a comfortable feel, this new fabric is also the lightest-weight fabric on the market to meet the Heat and Flame Protection NFPA 2112 and Predicted Body Burn Protection ASTM F1930 international standards,” says Amr Moniem, global leader for DuPont Nomex Thermal Protection.

An emerging solution from MākuSafe, a safety technology startup company, leverages proprietary wearable technology, machine learning, and analytics to reduce industrial workplace accidents and workers’ compensation claims.

The MākuSafe platform constantly tracks conditions around workers wearing an armband device, which captures environmental condition and human motion data in real time. It applies machine learning to the data to identify high-risk trends that can lead to injury and notify appropriate personnel of unfavorable conditions. It also allows insurance carriers and the insured to collaborate on risk control strategies.