5 Things You May Not Know About Electrical Safety in Your Facility

Sept. 7, 2021
How well do you know Lockout/Tagout? We recently talked about Lockout/Tagout as well as other electrical safety issues with Leviton's John Garbarino.

Lockout/Tagout is a safety issue that plant managers should know about, but may not be as familiar with as they should be. We recently talked about Lockout/Tagout as well as other electrical safety issues with John Garbarino, Sr. Platform Product Manager, Commercial & Industrial, at Leviton Manufacturing. This is what he had to say. 

Food Processing: What should plant managers know about Lockout/Tagout that they may not be considering?

John Garbarino: The fact that OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy Standard (Lockout/Tagout) is perennially one of OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards indicates that there are many things plant managers are not considering. It’s worth noting that “hazardous energy” is not limited to electrical energy. Mechanical energy—including springs, hydraulics, etc. also fall under this Standard's purview.

One misconception is that a Tagout only program is an acceptable substitution for a Lockout program. This is not the case. Tags can easily be inadvertently removed, potentially exposing workers to serious electrical hazards. Combining lockout and tagout programs have proven to offer the greatest protection.

The types of lockout hardware are also important considerations. For example, the types of locks used must be visually identifiable for the purpose and must be different than general padlocks used for other security purposes to avoid confusion.

A recent addition to the National Electrical Code stipulates that any disconnecting means that is required to be lockable in the open position must have the locking means as an integral component. That is, the locking means can’t be removed once the lock is removed.

Another significant misconception is that a Lockout/Tagout program is comprised of a collection of locks and tags that can be used for isolating equipment from energy. The fact is a Lockout/Tagout program also includes extensive documentation of the processes and procedures workers must follow to remove hazardous energy from equipment.

FP: Are there training requirements food processors need to comply with regarding Lockout/Tagout?

JG: Absolutely! A significant percentage of OSHA citations for Lockout/Tagout are related to lack of proper training, not for lack of hardware or program development.

There are also different levels of training required for different types of employees: authorized, affected, and other. This training is specific to the employee’s relationship with a specific piece or pieces of equipment, so a general on-size-fits all training program is insufficient.

Retraining is also an important part of the overall training program. However, retraining is not necessarily time-based. Retraining occurs based on other factors, such as when changes are made to the Lockout/Tagout program, when new equipment is introduced, when employee’s responsibilities change, or when an employee is found to be in violation of established procedures.

FP: Can you explain how manual motor starters impact a food facility’s safety?

JG: There are several types of manual motor starters that are purpose-built for specific applications, and using them in the wrong application can create a safety hazard. For example, there is a sub-class of manual motor starters listed as “suitable for motor disconnect,” meaning that they can be used for both on/off control of a motor and satisfy the requirements for use as a safety disconnect switch. This type of switch is listed to UL 60947-4-1 (formerly in UL 508) and can only be installed between the final motor branch-circuit short-circuit protective device and the motor. However, due to the smaller footprint (and lower cost), some will attempt to use these devices as general-purpose disconnect switches in applications such as branch or feeder circuits or for non-motor loads. This misapplication is problematic as the physical construction requirements do not support the potentially higher energy levels present in general-purpose environments, which leads to a situation that is not only a significant safety concern but a Code violation as well.

FP: What’s the different between weatherproof and watertight when it comes to protecting electrical device installation?

JG: These terms are sometimes considered synonymous, but there are significant differences in performance regarding protecting electrical devices from harmful exposure. Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the terms “weatherproof” and “watertight” are somewhat generic and don’t have formal definitions regarding actual protection from particle and liquid intrusion.

That being said, weatherproof enclosures are typically designed to protect electrical devices from things like falling dirt, dust, splashing water, and falling rain, sleet, and snow. Some might even offer some protection from hose-directed water.

FP: Watertight devices offer additional protection from submersion in water, high-pressure, and high-temperature water jetting (power washing). But how do you know for sure which is appropriate for your application?

JG: There are two organizations – NEMA and IEC – with rating systems that provide specific criteria for ingress protection from solids and liquids. There is a loose correlation between these ratings and the terms “weatherproof” and “watertight,” but as mentioned are often not accurate enough to make a proper decision regarding applicability. For example, many weatherproof enclosures will show a NEMA Type 3, 3R, 3S or IP 52, IP 54 rating, while watertight enclosures will show a NEMA Type 4, 4X, 6, 6P or IP 65, IP 66, IP67, or IP 68 rating. There are significant differences between the individual ratings within each category. Therefore, it is advisable that you review the actual protection criteria offered by the specific rating to select the proper enclosure.

FP: What’s something critical for facilities need to understand about IP ratings for electrical safety?

JG: Most plant managers are familiar with the “IP Code” system. This two-digit code indicates the level of protection that the enclosure provides against access to hazardous parts and the ingress of solid foreign objects and the level of protection that the enclosure provides against harmful ingress of water.

The first digit indicates protection from contact and solid particle ingress and ranges from 0 (no protection) to 6 (maximum protection). The maximum rating of 6 also implies that the protection will guard against all conditions specified in the numerals lower than 6. So, an enclosure rating of IP 6x will protect against any ingress of dust and contact with live parts.

The second digit in the IP rating number indicates the level of protection from water ingress and ranges from 0 to 9. At first glance, it appears that the higher the number, the more protection an enclosure offers regarding water ingress. That is somewhat true, but unlike the first digit, you cannot assume that the second digit of 9 – the highest number – protects from water ingress from all conditions. For example, a rating of IP x9 protects against exposure to high-temperature/high-pressure water jetting. But that doesn’t automatically mean the enclosure offers protection from temporary or prolonged submersion (which is IP x7 or IP x8). If you need protection from both high-temperature pressure washing and submersion, the enclosure will have to carry both ratings. Therefore, it is imperative that you identify the specific exposure and cross-reference that to the appropriate IP ratings specified in the IEC 60529 Standard.

One impact of COVID-19 is the need for more frequent and intensive washdowns in areas adjacent to the production floor. Because of this, facility managers must understand IP ratings and install enclosures that can withstand the enhanced cleaning regimens. Is there anything else you feel facilities should know about electrical safety?

It can’t be overstated that training and education are the cornerstones of maintaining an electrically safe facility. But it can be daunting to establish and maintain such programs. This is an area where manufacturers like Leviton can help. Electrical Safety Codes and Standards are constantly evolving, making it difficult to keep programs up to date. Leviton offers various training programs that can help facility managers keep up to date on these changes and serve as “refresher training” for employees.

Leviton also manufactures electrical devices that promote electrical safety and support established safety programs. Leviton products are developed with safety as a core function, from wiring devices for use in wet, damp, or dusty environments to devices with integral lockout provisions, or devices with enhanced technology that improves upon conventional safety provisions.

For example, Leviton’s Inform Technology Platform comprises condition-monitoring sensors and communication elements that alert users of abnormal operating conditions, such as liquid accumulation, and allow for remote monitoring that enables troubleshooting without exposing workers to live parts.

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