Monthly Archives: January 2018

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Switchgear Lifecycle, Technologies & Safety Seminar Recap

Recently we hosted a Switchgear Lifecycle, Technologies & Safety Seminar covering the product life cycle, preventive maintenance, and planning for future capacity. If you couldn’t attend, here are a few highlights from the seminar.

Electrical systems are essential to almost every other system a building has, and maintenance is required to keep them running properly. All equipment eventually reaches the end of its useful life, but well-maintained equipment lasts 35 years on average, as opposed to 17 years for unmaintained equipment.

Electrical equipment was never designed to go without maintenance.  In fact, when it was installed, you should have received an owner’s manual and maintenance guide.  Loose connections or mechanical parts are responsible for more than 30% of electrical losses, and electrical system components are 3x more likely to fail without preventive maintenance. If in doubt of what proper preventive maintenance for electrical systems includes, refer to the NFPA 70B for details to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries.

Below are key recommended preventive maintenance services according to NFPA 70B:

  • Voltage and current measurements
  • Harmonic voltage and current measurements
  • Ultrasonic testing
  • Infrared thermography
  • Visual Inspection

Checking for voltage imbalances, drops and the intended voltage ratings for your equipment can elongate their useful lives. The use of infrared thermography does not interrupt uptime for any of your equipment, but picking up excess heat readings can indicate poor connections or excess load. Qualified, experienced electricians can often visually identify and fix issues on the spot which non-qualified maintenance personnel may not notice.

Visual inspections are incredibly useful in preventive maintenance, although they cannot be solely relied on as the only type of preventive maintenance.  Regular switchgear maintenance should include cleaning, inspecting for physical damage, checking insulation resistance, and reinsulating windings as appropriate. Circuit breakers 225 amps and above should be electrically trip tested to ensure they operate correctly.

An arc flash risk assessment should be included with your regular preventive maintenance. Arc flashes occur when an electrical arc passes through air, phase to ground, or phase to phase, and can cause serious injury and damage. The risk assessment will help you determine if there are any current hazards to address, and estimate further precautions to take against arc flashes by referring to the NFPA 70E.

Finally, an important part of preventive switchgear maintenance is preparation for an electrical system failure. Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) ensure power continuity to maintain process control in the event of a utility power failure. There are many solutions to provide backup of information, power continuity, control panel protection, and surge protection to keep your electrical infrastructure running smoothly.

For more information on the information covered in the Switchgear Lifecycle, Technologies & Safety Seminar, contact your French Gerleman Account Manager.


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The Responsibilities of Authorized, Competent and Qualified Persons

Like those in any field with its own esoteric language, we in fall protection often take for granted that when we use a term, everyone else knows what we are talking about. For example, if I said, “For that Fall Arrest application, you’ll need an SRL-LE – and make sure the shock-absorber is attached to your dorsal D-ring,” you’d probably understand what I meant. Other terms can get squishier. What is the exact definition of a “prompt” rescue? What is a “regular interval” of inspection? What makes using a fall protection system “infeasible?” What constitutes “supervision” of work?

Clearing the Mud

We turn our attention to three terms found throughout OSHA and ANSI regulations that have caused more than a bit of confusion amongst newcomers: the Authorized, Competent and Qualified Persons. Each of these titles defines a specific role within the world of fall protection, and there has been more than one person (including myself) who has been confused as to where one person’s responsibility ends and another begins.

Let’s start with the term that affects the greatest number of workers – the Authorized Person. OSHA 1926.500 defines the Authorized Person as, “…a person approved or assigned by the employer to perform a specific type of duty or duties or to be at a specific location or locations at the jobsite.” Pretty vague, no? That definition covers just about every person at the jobsite. ANSI tightens the definition by adding that “…the person will be exposed to a fall hazard.” In a nutshell, within the fall protection world, the Authorized Person is anyone who is required by their employer to be exposed to a fall hazard. But don’t think that’s all there is to being an Authorized Person. It’s not like you show up to your first day on the job and your employer asks you to kneel and touches each of your shoulders with a 4’ level and says, “Arise an Authorized Person, and get thee to the roof!”

Before you step foot on the job as an Authorized person, your employer must ensure you are fully aware of, and know how to recognize potential dangers on the jobsite. Not only that, but you also must be trained in the proper use of fall protection equipment, from harness and lanyards, to anchors, guardrails, and ladders, including their proper maintenance and storage. After all, having the title of Authorized Person doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the knowledge to back it up.

Competency Is a Good Thing

Climbing the ladder of responsibility, we next find the Competent Person. The Competent Person’s responsibilities encompass those of the Authorized Person, but with the added duty (assigned to them by the employer) to take corrective measures to eliminate fall hazards, up to and including halting operations until the hazards have been mitigated. As a matter of fact, the latest OSHA 1910 General Industry update added this latter authorization to their definition of Competent Person. This strengthens the role, and brings it into alignment with the established 1926 Construction and ANSI standards – a good thing.

The Competent Person is a walking, talking storehouse of fall protection knowledge, who constantly monitors the jobsite for hazards, and who, in fact, must first survey the jobsite before an Authorized Person comes onsite to create both a fall and rescue plan. And once a job begins, they are the person Authorized Persons should consult when there is a question regarding the suitability or compatibility of fall protection equipment in a particular situation. The Competent Person understands and approaches fall protection from a slightly higher level than the Authorized Person, and their word carries more authority across the jobsite. And if there is an incident, guess who is right in the thick of the questioning? That’s right, the Competent Person.

In addition to situational expertise, the Competent Person is also responsible for regular inspections of fall protection equipment.  It is the duty of every Authorized Person to inspect their gear every day before work, but the Competent Person, with their high-level of knowledge, is considered to have more expertise and therefore is charged with being a sort of gatekeeper in regards to equipment. Think about it this way: An Authorized Person may only deal with a limited variety of Fall Protection equipment – maybe a harness and lanyard, but the Competent Person is responsible for knowing about the full spectrum of gear, and must possess the requisite knowledge to determine whether a particular piece of gear is safe for continued use. Hint: If you would like to do something to make you immediately more knowledgeable and valuable on the job, get yourself to one of our Competent Person classes. Every jobsite needs one, why not you?

Qualifying Qualified

Above the Competent Person is the Qualified Person. When I say “above,” I don’t necessarily mean that the Qualified Person is an Authorized or Competent Person’s superior, or even supervisor, but that their responsibilities take on an even higher degree of technical knowledge, expertise, and in many cases, education. The most comprehensive definition of a Qualified Person is provided by ANSI, and states that a Qualified Person is:

“A person with a recognized degree, certificate, or professional certificate AND with extensive knowledge, training and experience in the fall protection AND rescue field who is capable of designing, analyzing, evaluating and specifying fall protection and rescue systems to the extent required by this standard.”

This means that a Qualified Person knows not only which fall protection system might work in a particular situation, but also show (usually through on-site testing) that the solution meets the performance standards as dictated by ANSI or OSHA.  A common example is the certification of anchorages used in fall protection. OSHA mandates that anchors must be capable of supporting 5,000 lbs., but even if the anchor was installed per manufacturer’s instructions, how do we know it will? That’s where the Qualified Person comes into play.

As mentioned in the post on the updated OSHA 1910 regulations, building owners with rope descent systems must provide to the employer written certification that their anchorages have been tested and meet the strength requirements as set forth by OSHA. Only a person with specific engineering education and experience is capable of performing these tests and certifying the results in any meaningful way. In many instances, Qualified Persons will hold a technical or other engineering-based degree. Since inspecting and testing requires broad-based knowledge about structures, including their integrity and composition, it makes sense that a person who puts their name on the line has a background in physics, material strength and fatigue, and scientific testing methods.

With such specialized responsibilities, it’s quite unlikely that a Qualified Person will ever be on a jobsite full-time, day in and day out.  The nature of their work really puts them in place before work commences, or if after work begins, as conditions change and a new fall protection system needs to be engineered or tested. And keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a Qualified Person has been on every jobsite. Many jobsites never have a Qualified Person visit to certify anchor installations. To understand why this may be, you need to know about certified vs. non-certified anchors. But that’s a story in itself, so let’s leave that for another day.

What Does This Have to Do with Us?

There is one other role that also needs to be mentioned alongside our triad of Authorized, Competent, and Qualified persons, and that is the manufacturer – in this case of course, Guardian Fall Protection. What role does the manufacturer play when it comes to the responsibilities of these three jobs? In two words, a lot. Essentially, no one installing, inspecting, testing, or using fall protection could do their job until we do. Our role as a manufacturer is to first think of the needs of the worker, then engineer a product to fit that need.  That sounds like a simple process, but brother, it’s not. Before we release a product to the market, it is tested (and retested…and retested) to make sure it meets all of the safety specifications from OSHA, ANSI, and ourselves. Testing is in large part a process of discovery in that we go into the lab with a certain expectation (usually they are met), but sometimes it’s the unexpected little things that throw us for a loop. Maybe it’s the number or gauge of screws that are used, or maybe it’s the thickness or composition of the substrate that we need to tweak one way or the other. No matter what comes our way though, we adjust our parts and procedures and continue our work.

Once we have a successful product, we generate documentation that spells out precisely how the product (an anchor, let’s say) should be installed for maximum strength and performance. Even the documentation goes through revision after revision to make sure it’s just right – trust me on this…  It is this information that then gets passed on to the subsequent Qualified, Competent, and Authorized persons so that they can install and use properly the very equipment on which lives will rely. But don’t think that once a product is released that that is the last time it ever sees the lab, or its installation instructions are reviewed. Guardian regularly batch tests every product that comes through our warehouse, and we believe wholeheartedly that constant review and revision is the best policy for making sure our products will perform to their maximum potential when they are needed the most.

 

This blog is reprinted with permission from Guardian Fall Protection.  Originally published April 3, 2017, on The Guardian Fall Team Blog. For more information about fall protection or other personal safety products or issues, please contact your French Gerleman account manager or e-mail info@frenchgerleman.com.


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Reform Capacitors to Keep Your Spare VFDs Ready for Use

Having spare VFDs on hand can help reduce the amount of downtime when a failure occurs, but these spares require regular maintenance to keep them ready for use.

When VFDs are stored for long periods of time, typically 12+ months, the internal chemistry of the DC bus capacitors begins to deteriorate if power is not applied.  Formed when voltage is applied to the capacitor, its oxide layer acts as an insulator preventing shorts from occurring. In storage, this layer can degrade.

If the VFD is not powered up slowly to recondition the DC bus capacitors and prepare it for operation under full load, it could result in a catastrophic failure and render it useless. To help maintain your spare inventory, French Gerleman now offers a Bonitron M3628PCF Portable Capacitor Former for rent allowing you to reform your VFDs on site.

 

How often do capacitors need to be reformed?

Most manufacturers recommend an annual power up of all drive modules to insure capacitors are always in an operable state. Consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific instructions for your specific VFDs.

 

 

 

Why rent the Bonitron Portable Capacitor Former?

The M3628PCF Portable Capacitor Former can reform capacitors by slowly increasing the DC bus voltage to allow the internal chemistry to readjust at a safe rate. There are digital displays to show the voltage levels and current. The Capacitor Former operates from standard 110-240VAC supply and can also be used as a variable DC power supply for recharging capacitors, or discharging capacitors for maintenance.

Because it comes with wheels and an extendable handle, it is easy to take with you wherever you need it.  It is only 10.5” tall by 18” deep by 22” wide, which makes it convenient to use.

Renting a Bonitron M3628PCF Portable Capacitor Former may be the right solution to make sure your spare VFDs are ready for operation when needed. If you are interested in renting a Bonitron M3628PCF Portable Capacitor Former or have any questions, please contact your French Gerleman Account Manager or Power Control Product Manager.


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French Gerleman’s New Mobile App: UPC Scanner

Today most manufacturer products include a UPC (barcode). When you’re looking to replace an existing item or replenish inventory, the French Gerleman UPC scanner can help you quickly locate the products you need.

Ordering a product from French Gerleman is easy.  Simply scan the UPC with your phone using the UPC scanner built into our mobile app. If the product is in our inventory of 36,000+ SKUs, the app will bring up the product and you can directly add it to your cart.

Not only can you easily match and order the right product with the UPC scanner, you can also check real-time inventory.

Use the scanner and more features with the French Gerleman app, now available for Android or iOS. To learn more about our app, contact your French Gerleman Account Manager.