In the Land of Charles
Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
NEC at the Facility
The Practical Implications of OSHA
Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
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MRO Insider addresses topics such
Working with management and supervision
National Electrical Code® on the production floor
Safety procedures and programs
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Trends in training and education
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The designations "National Electrical Code” and “NEC” refer to the
National Electrical Code®, which is a registered
trademark of the
National Fire Protection Association.
In the Land of Charles
The transportation and distribution industries are
driving investment in the Tar Heel and Palmetto states. Investment in
the industrial manufacturing industry in North and South Carolina has
been on the rise for the last five years, according to marketing
information resources company Industrial Information Resources (IIR).
IIR is tracking almost 140 active capital and maintenance projects in
the states worth close to $4 billion. A total of 72% of future
activity in these two states resides in the port industry, warehousing
and distribution industry, and the light and commuter rail industry.
Key projects in North Carolina include a proposed $600 million
international port, a $300 million Mid-Atlantic parcel sorting hub, and
a $212 million Southeast corridor light rail project. Key projects in
South Carolina include a $600 million naval yard container terminal and
a $450 marine container terminal.
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Time-based maintenance doesn't account for real
conditions. This makes conditioned-based maintenance the darling of
maintenance consultants. But neither of these methods accounts for
seasonality. This particular time of year has its own issues.
HVAC, discussed in two previous issues, is just one area to address
as summer heat approaches. April showers may bring May flowers, but
bring less desirable things as well. This time of year, you should also
- Rodents. Inspect equipment rooms for the telltale signs of
rodents: droppings, bits of grass or paper, and scratches. If found,
combat the problem by sealing up any holes or passageways and treating
the area with an approved repellant.
- Birds. Returning from winter, birds are looking for places
build nests. High ceiling areas, outbuildings, service drops, service
transformers, and lighting fixtures (especially security lights) are
some of the more attractive locations. Remove any inactive nesting
materials to combat the problem.
- Insects. If you have grounds to maintain, you know to remove
standing water and to apply insecticides about now. But the electrical
system may also need preventive insect care. Insects entering their
breeding season may build nests in or near electrical enclosures. They
like the warmth in these spaces. Special safety note: If you have a
pump, check every enclosure associated with it. Remove all nests and
treat areas appropriately.
- Fungi. That black mottling on light fixtures, in HVAC
equipment, and on enclosure walls is probably fungi. Also check
electrical equipment associated with process cooling water and similar
systems. If these levels are abundant, then you may want to try and
permanently adjust the humidity levels in these areas.
- Vegetation. You know to keep vegetation away from
transformers and gas supplies. But other equipment also needs to be
vegetation-free. Walk around the grounds and note which outdoor
equipment needs defoliation. Then, remove all vegetation at the same
time. You may need an arborist to prune or remove trees.
Beware - Arc
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This morning, you received a complaint from an employee
who said she could hardly see when leaving the building last night. An
electrician covered the photocells, and the lights came on. If you can
see that light even in the daytime, why is she having problems at
The answer to this question appears at the end of this
Following harsh winter weather and spring rains, you
find it's time to repair that lighted flagpole and some security
If so, follow these tips:
- If the turf is wet and it's the only access to the work, create a
temporary walkway with boards (preferably plywood sheets). Why?
Foot traffic damages wet turf by compressing the air out of it. Fixing
lights to shine on a muddy scar in the lawn isn't going to score you
points with your boss.
- Test each device for power, before working on it. Why? As a
facility ages, the power scheme in a given area may defy logic because
of equipment additions that weren't properly engineered and/or
documented. Don't assume power is off -- use test equipment to
- Conduct insulation resistance tests on all direct-buried cables as
you work on a given system. Why? This is an ideal time to check
for cable leakage because the soil is moist.
- If replacing fixtures or lamps, upgrade to higher efficiency
products. Why? International demand is driving energy costs up.
Replacing old lighting equipment without improving energy efficiency is
not even penny-wise. These days, it's simply foolish.
- For work on the building exterior, allow fiberglass ladders only.
Why? Aluminum ladders conduct; fiberglass ones don't. Wiring
damage or error could energize the building façade.
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NEC at the Facility
Electrical exams emphasize Art. 240. This should not
be surprising, as Art. 240 addresses overcurrent protection.
Unfortunately, this is one of the more complex areas of the NEC, and
misapplication can result in disaster.
Here's a common point of confusion. Calculations seldom produce an
ampacity that exactly matches a standard overcurrent protection device.
For devices rated 800A or less, you can use the next size up if you
the conditions of 240.4(B). For devices rated over 800A, the ampacity
the conductors must exceed the rating of the overcurrent device
Understanding these concepts from Part I will help you prevent a
Conductor overload protection isn't required in all cases [240.4(A)].
For an example, review the requirements for fire pumps [695.4].
- Only qualified persons should monitor and service your electrical
system. The word "qualified" has a specific meaning. In many
this fact goes unheeded. When is the last time your MRO managers
reviewed system maintenance requirements against staff training and
- Ensure you adequately monitor and maintain your system. If you
haven't hired a certified testing firm to review your electrical
program, how do you know the program is adequate [240.2(1)]?
- Certain equipment has specific overcurrent protection requirements
that amend Article 240 requirements [240.3]. Confusion and
misapplication are common, especially in regard to motors (Article
Apply Article 240 except where the specific equipment Article
The Practical Implications of OSHA
This slice of OSHA requirements addresses outside
conductors and lamps. For conductors, it provides specific clearances
(so does the NEC). If you haven't reviewed your facility's conductor
clearances -- especially over sidewalks and vehicular traffic areas
-- make a note to do so.
Locate your lighting fixtures below live conductors,
transformers, and other electric equipment -- unless you can lockout
and tagout the disconnecting means or you have adequate clearances and
safeguards for relamping operations. The twist is in the word
"adequate." If you are looking for what you can "get by with," then
"adequate" has one meaning. If you are looking for how to ensure the
installation is safe, then it has another.
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Answer to Electrical
The lights shine, but do they put enough light where
need it? Three possible problems are:
- The lamps are dirty with winter grime. The fix is obvious.
- The lamps are nearing the end of their life, and their output has
dropped below an acceptable level. Do a mass replacement of the lamps,
and you efficiently solve this problem. Schedule lamp replacement per
manufacturer's guidelines, and you prevent a recurrence.
- The fixtures are misaligned. Birds, squirrels, and other animals
re-aim these lights. So can snow, ice, wind, and gravity. Check the
alignment at night.
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