Safety of Existing Equipment not being worked on

CaptKarnage

Member
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
I have found a large 480V electrical panel at my job tucked away in a seldom occupied corner. There was apparently a large roof leak in the past that has caused the panel to become damaged. It is rusted all the way around, the panel doors are warped and cannot even remain shut & latched and exposure to energized 480V conductors could occur accidentally by someone being near it and bumping the panel door. It's an obvious hazard on it's face and IMO I shouldn't even need to make an argument to replace it.

Currently, I'm making a "common sense" argument to have this equipment replaced. It is obviously unsafe and needs to be replaced and I am pushing as many people at my job as possible to make sure it gets replaced - working my way up the chain. However, I haven't found anything in regulations or NFPA publications that actually directs that the company HAS to do something about it now. NFPA 70 is all about initial installation, nothing about what happens to the equipment later. NFPA 70E seems to only direct something to occur if work is occurring on the equipment. NFPA 70B obviously wasn't followed, but it is not a legal requirement, only "recommended".

The issue is, no work is occurring on this equipment right now. In about a year, we will have a project in this abandoned area of the plant to reuse it - and at that time, when work is about to occur, this panel will get replaced because their hand will be forced. However, I think a year from now could be too late. It's a safety hazard and even if it's unlikely someone will get hurt in the next year (NOTE: I'm not trying to minimize, I think we have an unacceptable risk present, I'm just trying to think like someone else) because no one other than me has ventured to the area in years, it still could just break down due to an internal short and trip upstream breakers that will cut power to millions of dollars of equipment and damage the building structure in that area and create a lot of unwanted downtime. Additionally, it will be cheaper to just do it now than in the midst of the other work and will cause less delays. Then, finally there's potential legal liability. So, I am also trying to convince them they will save money by working on it now. Again, I shouldn't have to convince them of this, but, here I am.

If my common sense arguments fall on deaf ears in that respect, is there a legal requirement (in the United States) that they must do something now that this hazard is identified? If I can point directly to such a requirement, I can get them to act now.
 

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
Sounds like you did what you can. The owners are definitely legally liable if someone gets injured. There is the possibility of this equipment failing and whatever it is powering going down. You've spoken your piece, now let the owners decide what to do. At minimum, a couple of dollars of red danger tape should be surrounding the equipment.
 

ValeoBill

Member
Location
Wasaga Beach, Ontario
Occupation
Industrial Electrician
As "Coppersmith" has said above, you've done what you can. There may be documentation in either NEC of NFPA70A/B/E stating than unused live electrical equipment be kept in a safe state. Here in Ontario, Canada, my obligation is bring a potentially unsafe issue to the attention of my supervisor. Period. The onus is then on him/them to address it. Caution tape is a good touch. Being in an area not regularly frequented might lead people to not be aware of such an issue. You may want to bring the concern to your H&S rep/committee. They may have more influence is getting a faster resolution.
 

CaptKarnage

Member
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
If it is not being used, why is it still energized?

Didn't say it wasn't being used. It is used to power lighting panels and fans. I did say that it is not being worked on, that is, no one has flipped any switches, did any maintenance or repairs or went inside it for any reason for quite some time nor has any plans to within the next year.
 

CaptKarnage

Member
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
As "Coppersmith" has said above, you've done what you can. There may be documentation in either NEC of NFPA70A/B/E stating than unused live electrical equipment be kept in a safe state. Here in Ontario, Canada, my obligation is bring a potentially unsafe issue to the attention of my supervisor. Period. The onus is then on him/them to address it. Caution tape is a good touch. Being in an area not regularly frequented might lead people to not be aware of such an issue. You may want to bring the concern to your H&S rep/committee. They may have more influence is getting a faster resolution.

Yes, the H&S rep is one of the "as many people at my job as possible" but it took me a while to find out who they were. I'm meeting with them this week. I'm hoping they can drive the people responsible for maintenance in the area to do something about it.
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Wisconsin
Occupation
Retired Electrical Engineer - Power Systems
NFPA 70E requires that equipment be properly maintained and serviced.

Everyone seems to stop at the first articles (arc flash and energized work) but there is more to the standard than that.
 
D

Dell3c

Guest
NFPA 70E requires that equipment be properly maintained and serviced.

Everyone seems to stop at the first articles (arc flash and energized work) but there is more to the standard than that.

NFPA 70E.. 110.4(D)(2) The Equipment is properly maintained.
At the time it is properly installed, equipment is in new condition and everything is expected to be in order. After that point in time, equipment will slowly begin to show signs wear and tear. Motors, circuit breakers and even transformers are not pieces of equipment that should be ignored; they require maintenance. Most manufacturers provide recommendations on what is minimally required to maintain their equipment. NFPA70B Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance contains a wealth of information.
Proper maintenance is not just a act of fixing, adjusting, or filling fluids. There is a time aspect that is just important. A piece of equipment might only need maintenance every year or two in one installation, but that same piece of equipment might require monthly maintenance in another installation.
* The Employer/Owner must make sure that any equipment is properly maintained. If not, employees will be at risk of injury during normal operation.
 

suemarkp

Senior Member
Location
Kent, WA
Occupation
Retired Engineer
Does OSHA have jurisdiction over your workplace? Does everyone enforce NFPA 70E (I think some states do not)? OSHA may require it though if they have jurisdiction.
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
CYA, document, document, document, make sure you have written notifications of deficiencies with code references and strong but not enhanced warnings of potential hazards. While you can't force them to make repairs, your awareness and verbal warning with suggested solutions can, if issues come to fruition, can come back to bite you. (Owner could says you said you knew of a problem but didn't tell them how bad it really was, and leave you holding the bag.) Sometimes it might be even warranted to send notice via Certified signature required mail.
If you feel very strong about issue, and you see life and safety being involved, and dont mind "biting the hand", you could notify the AHJ who would have the authority to "Red Tag" the equipment and force replacement. But be VERY certain that the issues raise to "that level", because any credibility you have can be irreparably lost if AHJ doesn't agree with your assessment.
 

CaptKarnage

Member
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
NFPA 70E.. 110.4(D)(2) The Equipment is properly maintained.
At the time it is properly installed, equipment is in new condition and everything is expected to be in order. After that point in time, equipment will slowly begin to show signs wear and tear. Motors, circuit breakers and even transformers are not pieces of equipment that should be ignored; they require maintenance. Most manufacturers provide recommendations on what is minimally required to maintain their equipment. NFPA70B Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance contains a wealth of information.
Proper maintenance is not just a act of fixing, adjusting, or filling fluids. There is a time aspect that is just important. A piece of equipment might only need maintenance every year or two in one installation, but that same piece of equipment might require monthly maintenance in another installation.
* The Employer/Owner must make sure that any equipment is properly maintained. If not, employees will be at risk of injury during normal operation.

@Dell3c I saw that one, too, and I agree with your statement and I'm using that as part of my argument. I'm going to reiterate the liability of the company if nothing else. The confusing thing is that section, 110.4 is titled "Energized Work" - so I don't know that it's technically legally applicable since we're not doing any energized work here. Certainly, regardless of the intent of the rule, someone could interpret it as not applicable due to that. IMO it should be in it's own section so it's clear that proper maintenance is a requirement at all times. "Common Sense" says it should be, but unfortunately "common sense" is wide open to interpretation.

110.5(C) also states "The electrical safety program shall include elements that consider condition of maintenance of electrical equipment and systems" - so the company has an electrical safety program, though I don't know all the details except what I've had in my training so far which didn't cover maintenance - but it should have requirements to maintain the equipment and it should be followed.
 
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CaptKarnage

Member
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
CYA, document, document, document, make sure you have written notifications of deficiencies with code references and strong but not enhanced warnings of potential hazards. While you can't force them to make repairs, your awareness and verbal warning with suggested solutions can, if issues come to fruition, can come back to bite you. (Owner could says you said you knew of a problem but didn't tell them how bad it really was, and leave you holding the bag.) Sometimes it might be even warranted to send notice via Certified signature required mail.
If you feel very strong about issue, and you see life and safety being involved, and dont mind "biting the hand", you could notify the AHJ who would have the authority to "Red Tag" the equipment and force replacement. But be VERY certain that the issues raise to "that level", because any credibility you have can be irreparably lost if AHJ doesn't agree with your assessment.

I kind of have a list in my mind of how I'm working through this. I'm talking to the safety guy responsible for the area this week, if I don't get the answer I want from them, I'll take it to the safety guy for the whole plant. I have both of their names now. If I don't get the response I want from either of them, I have two options - I can report to the AHJ or I can wait until it's time to do work in the area and do a stop work order and not resolve it until the issue is addressed. Both options are likely to really tick someone off so I'd prefer not to go down either of those roads unless I absolutely have to. I hope it doesn't come to that. It's still "early" (I don't know how long it's been like this, it's been at least a year from the records I've seen, but I first found out about it only a week ago) and I have people to go through so I'm hopeful someone will see the light before it gets to that. I had gotten some unexpected resistance so far, but I think I just might not have been talking to the right people. I'm starting to get some support behind me from some co-workers, too. I just need to get someone in a position of authority on my side. There are other factors at play including prior layoffs, etc... perhaps someone was going to do something about it but they got let go and the ball got dropped. I appreciate everyone's insight on here, as well. Thank You.
 

CaptKarnage

Member
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
I also found 29 CFR 1910.303(g)(2) guarding of live parts. Given the condition of the cabinet and being in an area "out in the open" (even if not frequently visited) none of those conditions are met and there should be controls in place to prevent unqualified people from getting into that cabinet and currently there are none.
 

triptolemus

Member
Location
California
Occupation
Safety
You didn't need to go all the way down to (g)(2). There is a "general duty clause" in 1910.303(b)(1) which will earn a citation for the conditions you described.

1910.303(b)(1)
Examination. Electric equipment shall be free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Safety of equipment shall be determined using the following considerations:
 

Barbqranch

Senior Member
Location
Arcata, CA
Occupation
Plant maintenance electrician Semi-retired
Don't just talk to the safety people, send them an email afterwards saying something like "I just wanted to confirm our conversation of yesterday about the risk . . . (or whatever).

And send a BCC to your non-company email account. A verbal warning is pretty much worth the air it is written on if there is a problem later.
 

CaptKarnage

Member
Location
Milwaukee, WI
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
Don't just talk to the safety people, send them an email afterwards saying something like "I just wanted to confirm our conversation of yesterday about the risk . . . (or whatever).

And send a BCC to your non-company email account. A verbal warning is pretty much worth the air it is written on if there is a problem later.

I intended on doing that, but that is solid advice and good to have written out here in the forum if anyone else is in a similar situation and finds this. Thanks, @Barbqranch
 

Sahib

Senior Member
Location
India
Good initiative to take. A comprehensive survey to include any other electrical equipment in a similar condition because your company seems to have fit and forget attitude.
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Wisconsin
Occupation
Retired Electrical Engineer - Power Systems
Accumulation of dirt and cobwebs with moisture condensation could lead to arc flash when electrical equipment are not properly maintained and serviced.
NFPA70E goes beyond arc flash. It is about all electrical safety for employees. Chapter 1 contains rules for PPE and procedures while Chapter 2 contains rules for equipment maintenance.
 
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