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ELECTRICAL SAFETY & SUPPLY When prevention is better than cure

With a consistent, reliable power supply critical for the majority of UK business operations, the ramifications of any incurred downtime can be catastrophic, both in terms of cost and productivity. Mahendra Mistry, Technical Manager (Electrical) at Bureau Veritas – the Testing, Inspection and Certification company – highlights the key considerations for building operators when reviewing electrical safety.

internet-connected factories, through to corporations using technology to help automate basic back office functions, the digital revolution has had a huge impact on virtually every commercial domain. With this comes an increased reliance on electricity, with businesses often quick to buy or install the latest electrical equipment or technology that will help to enhance their offering. But little thought is paid to what happens to electrical equipment and installations after the initial purchase and commissioning stage – and who’s responsibility the after care should fall under.


However, the reality is that a robust electrical safety and maintenance programme is a must. After all, an average of six hours of business interruption is caused by every electrical failure in an organisation’s electrical system* – put this into the context of not only the expense of the repair work itself but the cost of downtime incurred, and it’s a risk which most businesses can ill afford. When talking to businesses, be it the business owner or building operator, I always ask them three questions: uWhat is your dependence on critical electrical supplies? uWhat would be the consequences of unplanned downtime of your electrical systems?

n this digital age, there are few businesses and organisations which do not rely heavily on a consistent, reliable power supply. From data- driven manufacturing and

uHow can you improve the reliability and safety of your electrical systems?

The reason I ask is because it makes it easier to understand that any error or disruption to your electrical system will generally have a significant impact on your business.

Electrical systems begin to deteriorate once they are built or installed, whilst performance and life expectancy decline as a result of a number of factors including environmental conditions, overload conditions and duty cycles. The principal reason for electrical system failure is the failure to maintain – and herein lies the solution.

Implementing a robust maintenance programme

With many other roles and responsibilities involved in the day-to-day running of a property, the building operator may not have either the skills or time to put an effective maintenance programme in place on their own. So, in the first instance, it is useful to bring in a third party to audit the electrical management system, from an authorised testing and certification perspective.

An audit will examine an organisations’ electrical system, including safe working policies, competency, training and adequacy of maintenance, before making recommendations for areas that need to be assessed. If required, a scheme of regular maintenance activity can be put forward.

External audits for electrical systems should be carried out at least every five years, if not more regularly depending on the business type and dependence on complex electrical systems. Following completion of the maintenance scheme it is vital that it is adequately and consistently applied throughout the building and businesses within that complex. Whilst it is the role of the Managing Director to guarantee a safe working environment, the delivery often falls to that of the building operator.

The building operator, of course, must be technically competent and have a strong knowledge of the electrical and instrumentation disciplines. After all, they will be the first point of call within a business to deem what is or is not safe according to electrical regulatory standards. As such, regular training should be considered to ensure they have a sound and up-to-date level of knowledge in this area.

And as the key stakeholder, the building operator must ensure the programme is adhered to at all business levels. This should

‘ Following completion of the

maintenance scheme it is vital that it is adequately and consistently applied throughout the building, and businesses within that complex. Whilst it is the role of the Managing Director to guarantee a safe working environment, the delivery often falls to that of the building operator.

involve communicating with management, customers and technicians; supervising contractors on site; following up on action items and keeping track of budget.

Routine inspections by third party contractors should be scheduled regularly. However it is the responsibility of the organisation itself, usually overseen by the building operator, to carry out a daily checklist and walk through, looking out for physical signs of damage and burning smells. The first stage of maintenance should be followed up by a detailed inspection, if issues of concern are raised.

Whether an assessment has been carried out externally or internally, a recommended actions list should be produced and issued to the business, supported with a thorough implementation of corrective measures and record keeping.

Ultimately, the importance of a consistent, reliable electrical power supply is only going to become greater in the modern business world. Through a robust maintenance programme, supported with careful monitoring and evaluation, building operators can ensure they are prepared and minimise the risk of failures. *Laskey 2012



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