The Electrical Audit Process – PART I
Co-Authors: Dr. Shree Nanguneri and Mr. Rao. G
Organizations throughout the world invest time, energy, and efforts to comply with standards in different areas such as ISO, OSHA, and other areas. One of the critical areas for any infrastructure or business operating unit is being in compliance with electrical standards. Part I of our series will summarize the process of the electrical audits that organizations engage in, year after year delving into the results and action items associated in getting certified. The auditing industry is growing and in addition to helping organizations become safer, it also establishes the credibility for customers who wish to partner with such institutions that comply with an accepted industry standards. Standards in different regions of the world will be referred, to help understand the varying associated complexities.
Introduction to Electrical Audit Process (EAP):
An EAP is a systematic review or assessment of all Electrical Systems and involves a series of follow-through steps, to achieve a high degree of electrical compliance, resulting in a safer environment. The process involves a detailed plan, to ascertain whether the installed systems are compliant to standards and also if these systems have adapted relevant industry best practices. Project Managers working in different organizations are constantly interacting with electrical systems as simple as a smartphone, to something as complex as a grid, providing power to physical infrastructure (brick and mortar building). Having a basic knowledge of the EAP, would help you identify opportunities in this area and immediately bring attention to the relevant authority in your organization.
Electricity is a form of energy that needs to be utilized with due care and diligence. Its improper use can lead to problems, ranging from a mild electrical shock to a severe one, leading to burns, injury and in its worst case, death of human/animal beings that may come in physical contact with it. Electric current at levels as low as a few milli-amperes is enough to cause injuries in a person.[One milli-ampere is one thousandth of an Ampere].
Causes for Injuries from Electrical Non-Compliance:
A fall from a ladder, scaffold or any elevated platform where a person is working from, can be caused by even a mild electrical shock, resulting in an injury if not a fatality.
Defective System or Installation:
Substandard or poorly built or installed electrical systems can result in an accidental fire, due to an electrical short circuit or arc flash. When a small spark or fire comes in contact with its surroundings (flammable material, like wood, cloth, rag, waste), it may result in a major fire, loss of property and financial loss to business entity.
When the surrounding area, near an electrical installation is congested or wet, the impact of electrical failure is multiplying. For instance, there is a tendency to store unwanted material in the lower basement of the building; these areas are prone to fire due to electrical faults. Many fires had started at the lower basement, and spread from there, to the entire building.
Proper planning and complying with standards, could have avoided most of the accidents related to electrical hazards. Hence the areas prone, to start and spread fire are to be identified, and then suitable remedial measures are to be taken, like cleaning up the area, removing hazardous material and so forth. Electrical ducts should be sealed at each floor, so that smoke does not spread to other floors, when there is fire in a particular floor. Most of the deaths are caused due to suffocation, due to smoke.
When the equipments, like Transformers, Gensets, UPS (especially batteries), Electric Panels, are not maintained properly, they can lead to malfunction, disruption and in the worst case lead to fires. All these equipments should be periodically tested and maintained, in consultation with manufacturers of these equipments.
Old or Outdated Equipment:
Many electrical types of equipment have a life of about 15 to 20 years, depending on the extant of usage. Batteries used with UPS, have lesser life, compared to other equipments, due to frequent charging and discharging. Old equipments especially wire and cables should be periodically assessed for their worthiness and replaced gradually with newer equipments.
EAP Risk Management Process:
There are international standards, practices, evolved over a period of time, to identify and manage risk. In this series, we will discuss various aspects of identifying, quantifying and mitigating such risks. There is an interesting piece of information in Electrical Safety Code Of Practice 2010 Risk Management – giving useful details on reducing and/or preventing risk in Electrical System Installations.
The purpose of an EAP is to assess the risk and suggest remedial measures. Essentially the purpose of an Intelligent and effective Electrical Audit Process or EAP, is to add value to customers, investors, stakeholders. Amongst other things, a result oriented EAP will increase the morale of the employees’ and the employers’. A well-greased risk management will inter alia; enhance customer value, stakeholders’, employees’, and overall confidence in the organization.
An accurate risk assessment and risk management can assist the organization on focusing on the most serious risk/risks, thereby helping in prioritizing risks, for a better deployment of funds. This will also lead to a better insight into risks, the organization may be facing. Over or under controlling of risks from electrical hazards needs to be avoided. Over control may lead to overspending by the company, in managing the risks. Under control, which is ignoring the risk, may lead to irreversible damage to the organization. A balanced, holistic and consistent approach in risk management and mitigation of risk is required, keeping in mind the risk appetite of the organization.
So far we have discussed causes for risk of electrical hazards and ways to reduce them. We will now touch upon, what EAP is all about. All electrical systems installation should follow the right set of rules and standards, in order to be safe. This is similar to rules of road safety, which need to be followed to reduce the risk of road accidents.
Some of the standards for electrical Installation, which are widely followed, are:
IEC standards that are of significant interest t customers are:
➢ Protection against electric shock – IEC 61140
o Common aspects for installation and equipment
➢ Low-voltage electrical installations – IEC 60364-4-41
o Protection for safety – Protection against electric shock – Part 4-41
➢ Electrical installations of buildings – IEC 60364
o Requirements for electrical installations. IEE Wiring Regulations – BS 7671
o Code of practice for distribution of electricity on construction and building sites – BS 7375
o Code of practice for Earthing – BS 7430
• Recommended Practice for Electrical Safety in Industrial and Commercial Power Systems
o IEEE National Electrical Safety Code
Indian Electrical Rules, CEA regulations; BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) and Indian National Building Code, are followed in India. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has standards, to ensure products manufactured are safe, while these are widely followed. There are ESO (European Standards Organization) ratified standards, notably CENELEC (European Committee for Electro-Technical Standardization), which are widely followed in European Countries.
ANSI/NEMA (American National Standards Institute/National Electrical Manufacturers Association) standards are followed widely, in the United States and other countries. There are Canadian Standards, Australian Standards, African, Japanese, Chinese standards followed in the respective countries. Every country has their standards for Electrical Installation, which needs to be adhered to, in that country, for safe usage of Electricity.
Most standards have several features in common. Some basic essentials, within these standards, that need great attention are listed below:
• All Electrical Installations should comply with known standards and Electricity Rules and Regulations
• Employers perform analysis, provide, and maintain PPE (personal protective equipment)
• Safety signs, symbols, accident prevention tags for alerting shall be provided
• GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) or RCDs or ELRs shall be provided on all circuits
• For an effective and efficient GFCI, the grounding and electrodes should be operational and reliable
• Electric circuits should be identifiable with permanent markings
• Live conductors or circuits should have a circuit breaker, for isolation in case of excess current
• Electrical Installations shall be designed to prevent overloading, and provide for future expansions
• On completing the electrical hazard analysis, only qualified persons shall work on energized circuits
• Annual audit shall be performed, by a qualified person, to point out a correction plan if needed
• All electrical components shall be tested periodically, in consultation with their manufacturers
• Test and incident records, accidents, small or big, are all events to be recorded.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
From this part we can see how critical the EAP is when it comes to ensuring electrical systems installation to verify for compliance with standards. It involves a series of steps to make the environment a safer place to work. An ineffective and inefficient Electrical System Installation is likely to be a hazardous risk that can lead to problems with safety of human beings and physical/infrastructural property. EAP involves assessing, quantifying, prioritizing to mitigate these risk hazards.
We recommend and encourage you to follow Parts II and III, where the discussions will relate to opportunities that can be explored, problems that can be solved, as well as how Business Process Excellence integrates with the EAP strategy, on a day-to-day basis. These applications can also be integrated into our daily lives at work, home and in our communities, to improve the standards of our lives.
About the Authors
Mr. Rao, G
I am an Electrical Installation Audit Consultant. I am engaged in activities such as: Electrical System Installation Audit. Compliance of installation with standards, Electricity Rules. Safety Assessment. Corrections to be made for electrical safety. Up gradation of facility. Analysis of failures due to power quality. Suggesting measures to improve. Assist in improving/upgrading electrical systems installation.
I am a business process improvement coach and consultant and have worked with several corporations in different continents over the last two decades. After having a successful 6-year work experience at GE, I started my own consulting company in 2000. I have been fortunate to successfully deliver across a variety of industries that include the fields of manufacturing, transactional as well as service type environments. I have published a few articles, authored patents and releasing a book in mid 2011. Although not an expert, I can converse reasonably well in Dutch, and Spanish, skills I acquired while working there. To date, the total annualized direct customer benefits from my services have accrued to several hundreds of millions of dollars. I enjoy outdoor activity, meeting people on a global level to mutually benefit each other. I am also thankful to my mentor as well as network members without which some of the achievement listed here would have been impossible.