Electrical faults seem to be the major reason for industrial disasters in the country as 56 per cent of incidents are reportedly caused by them. How can we make electrical industry a safer place?
Safety is an undervalued term in India. Whether it is safety at home, on roads or at work, its importance is poorly understood. As shocking as the statement sounds, it is testament to the fact that most Indians have a careless attitude toward safety at the workplace. Most of the time the focus is on correction, rather than prevention which leads to excess costs and wastage of resources.
The electrical industry is at crossroads. The industry is taking a conscious effort to upgrade its processes and material usage to compare with world-class practices and companies. The customers have become increasingly discerning and demanding and are ready to pay more for better quality electrical work. They understand that these extra expenses are paid off in the long run by efficient, uninterrupted electrical performance.
In spite of the growth in the productive output of the electrical industry, there are a number of safety hazards which have led to a loss of lives and properties. Electrical faults seem to be the major reason for industrial disasters in the country as 56 per cent of incidents are reportedly caused by them. Overheating, ageing of the material and use of sub-standard quality of electrical gadgets have been contributing to the increasing electrical fire accidents in industries. The Karnataka Energy Department has admitted that there have been 1,400 deaths in the past 3 years due to electrical accidents alone.According to the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, 8 per cent of all deaths in industry are electrical in origin. A power failure can result in expensive shut downs, and there is more. Besides the production, loss there is a greater danger — fire.
A small electrical problem can have extremely far-reaching consequences. The efficiency of the electrical grid becomes low, so the energy is spent generating heat. If left unchecked, heat can rise to the point where connections start to melt. Not only that, sparks can fly, setting the environment on fire. Insurance companies are now taking this into consideration and require regular thermal inspections. This provides new opportunities for dedicated specialists.
Fire accounts for the 10 per cent of all risks as observed in the India Risk Survey, 2012.The risk of fire has been rated among the top six risks across India. The respondents from outside of India have ranked risk by fire as the No 1 risk. The manufacturing and telecom sectors have also highlighted fire as their No 1 risk. In fact, Mumbai’s fire department indicates that electrical short is one of the most important causes of fire.
What are the main causes of electrical accidents in industry? While there are multiple causes, there are three common root causes for just about any electrical incident:
Working on unsafe equipment and installations
Unsafe environment, i.e. wet environment/presence of flammable vapours
Unsafe work performance.
There exists a number of ways to protect workers from the threat of electrical hazards. Some of the methods are for the protection of qualified employees doing work on electrical circuit, and other methods are geared towards non-qualified employees who work at nearby energised equipment.
Solutions to avoid a safety breachThermal imaging has become an important tool for electrical inspections in many industries. Alerting techniques are used to warn employees of the dangers present. Training is conducted on a regular basis in the electrical industry to increase the safety quotient of all employees. But none of this can be possible without the strict implementation of preventive maintenance throughout the organisation.
Alerting techniques might include safety signs, safety symbols, or accident prevention tags. Proper identification can be done using Brother printers which generate laminated labels to meet various marking requirements. A number of accidents are occurring due to silly mistakes and improper knowledge. These can be overcome by appropriate marking on various points like switches, controls, indicating lights etc. These labels are also durable enough to meet situations and services as per the workplace need.
Thermal imaging solutions like FLIR are being used across industry to inspect production equipment and components as well as the complete electrical power supply system. It helps avoid costly failures in power generation, transmission and distribution as infrared cameras help find anomalies before trouble strikes and service is affected. In production plants, office facilities, hospitals or hotels, an infrared camera instantly makes hot spots visible on a clear thermal image. One can scan electrical cabinets and components and survey multiple wires and connections to get an instant picture of potential trouble. Thus, the detection of the problem area and repair is before the real problems occur. Common electrical targets are fuses, electrical panels, bolted connections and switchgear.
Companies like Tata Power, NPCIL, NTPC, BHEL and ISRO have been investing heavily in safety. Kores India Ltd. has been dealing with these clients providing solutions for over a decade and offers Brother printers as well as 2FLIR thermal imaging cameras.
M. J. Lawrence, Assistant General Manager,Kores India Ltd.