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A Sustainable Approach to Electrical Maintenance
04 August 2017

A Sustainable Approach to Electrical Maintenance

A Sustainable Approach to Electrical Maintenance


The following article is published in the Canadian Healthcare Facilities Magazine, Summer 2017 edition.
By Roger Grylls, Vice President of Magna IV Engineering.

An effective electrical maintenance program ensures power systems and their components perform predictably and safely. Keeping detailed records, documenting equipment history and continuously evaluating performance is key to program success. However, an effective and sustainable maintenance program seeks to find an ideal balance between the effort spent on maintenance and the value it provides when looking to maximize the overall investment in power system equipment.

Proper management of electrical assets optimizes performance and safety of an electrical system while minimizing the cost of ownership over its useful life. With this in mind, there are a number of big picture considerations to take into account prior to executing routine maintenance that will help realize the best possible return on investment to maintain systems of equipment.

Canadian legislation defines the requirements for the installation of electrical equipment and requires owners of electrical systems to identify hazards involved when operating and working on or around electrical equipment. The Canadian Electrical Code (in conjunction with regional building codes) governs installation practices, while guidance around the identification of hazards and selection of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) can be found most commonly as part of industry standards and best practices.

CSA’s Z462 standard, Workplace Electrical Safety, is essentially a toolkit of work practices, definitions, equipment requirements, equations, look-up tables and sample forms. It was developed by a technical committee specifically to address shock and arc flash hazards related to electrical equipment in the workplace. It has become an invaluable tool for owners and operators of electrical systems for the development or enhancement of electrical safety programs.

Shock and arc flash are the primary hazards related to an electrical installation. Effectively evaluating a system will reveal opportunities to mitigate hazards through engineering controls, procedures and selection of PPE. However, it is important to note these analysis and mitigation strategies are entirely dependent on the installed equipment operating exactly as designed. If protective devices are not set as designed or interrupting devices do not operate within their expected operating times, incident energy may increase as a result. This is why properly maintaining and routinely evaluating equipment is key to reliably predicting risks related to electrical installations. According to CSA Z462, sites shall have procedures and practices in place to manage the integrity of electrical equipment. The standard also recommends referring to CSA Z463, Guideline on Maintenance of Electrical Systems, for guidance related to electrical maintenance strategies.

CSA Z463 provides preferred practices and strategies for maintenance of electrical equipment. Similar to CSA Z462, this guideline was developed by a technical committee and can be used as a practical tool to enhance quality management systems and safety programs to provide practical guidance and specific examples for the development of electrical maintenance programs.

The act of maintenance itself involves two separate concepts: mechanically maintaining equipment (visually inspecting, cleaning and lubricating components); and performance testing electrical components and systems (measuring key indicators such as contact resistance, insulation resistance, capacitance, wear markings and response times). These two concepts should be applied in unison, as one is not a substitute for the other. However, how much testing, mechanical maintenance and inspection is required is dependent on many factors. Some considerations may include system criticality, age, environment, history, availability of downtime and budgets. Applying efforts optimally and selecting the most suitable maintenance strategies will return the best value.

Although most common in industry, time-based shutdown maintenance is not the only strategy available. There are numerous alternatives that can be employed as part of an overall maintenance program, including continuous online equipment monitoring, running equipment to failure (then replacing it) and strategic hybrids of the two. A strategy’s effectiveness is primarily related to the predictability of events to which a system is required to respond. In every case, best programs of maintenance subscribe to the idea of continuous equipment performance evaluation and history assessment; these are the two key drivers of maintenance program evolution. At the core is the fundamental idea that a program of maintenance is not a static platform, set out at the beginning of the service life of a system of equipment. Rather, it is dynamic. A maintenance program should undergo continuous improvement based on performance input, observation, re-evaluation of operational needs and analysis of event history throughout the system’s life cycle. All equipment or systems of equipment eventually reach an end of practical service life. This happens as equipment wears out, breaks down or becomes unserviceable or obsolete. Ensuring all key components of a power system are being evaluated and maintained creates the best opportunity to plan for these inevitabilities. Strategic replacements and upgrades, at a component level, will help to maximize the service life of a system of equipment and may prolong or avoid the need for significant system replacements, as long as practical.

Good visibility of equipment condition, proper hazard identification and risk control provides valuable input to the operational staff required to interact with electrical equipment. Constraints such as process limitations, budgets or delivery of replacement parts may all factor into decisions to delay repair or equipment replacement. Mitigating hazards that may arise between maintenance cycles or allowing for equipment with known functional deficiencies to remain in service until appropriate time and/or resources are available can be feasible if appropriate controls are implemented to reduce risk to an acceptable level. Proper records of the operational condition of the equipment also allows easier transfer of system knowledge to new maintenance and operational staff, or contractors that may be required to interact with a facility’s electrical system. Training employees on the appropriate standards, operational procedures, as well as identification and communication of the current state of electrical equipment are all necessary functions of an effective maintenance program.

Regulatory compliance, safety and reliability are all interrelated concepts that need to be considered together as part of a well-structured maintenance program. Good maintenance practices and strategic upgrades can extend the life of equipment, improve performance and safety, and prolong equipment replacement as long as practical. An effective maintenance program will yield the best equipment life and provides the best value for that investment. Knowing equipment will reach end of life in two, five or 10 years allows for proper budgeting and affords the time to get the most competitive replacements in a non-urgent time frame. Best performing and sustainable maintenance programs are dynamic, constantly improving and utilize the best practices in industry to achieve maximum value. Getting informed and having the desire to improve performance, safety and reliability are the first steps towards maintenance success.

Roger Grylls is vice-president of Magna IV Engineering. Roger has more than 19 years’ experience working with high voltage power systems. He leads a working group on electrical maintenance with the CSA Z463 technical committee.


Download the full article here.

If you have any questions about building your own sustainable electrical maintenance program, contact us here.

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