No excuses for electrical accidents

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Earthing of Utility and Industrial Distribution Systems

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Lightning and surge protection, electrical safety, testing and measurement company Surgetek has helped industry overcome electrical application challenges for over 45 years through a range of equipment and practice-based solutions. The company’s vision is one of zero electrical-related injuries and deaths in industrial applications in South Africa, writes Sikhumbuzo Ngwenya, high voltage divisional manager at Surgetek.

Working towards this goal is a dedicated, driven team of experts, several of whom have played a leading role in drafting pivotal safety codes, legislation and best practices in earthing, lightning and surge protection for the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). Attesting to this, several staff members serve on various SABS/ IEC standards committees, and the company’s low voltage divisional manager, Paul van As, is the present chairman of SABS IEC 37A and 37B committees for surge arrestors.

While the standard of equipment and legislation designed to combat and mitigate electrical-related accidents in industrial applications has never been better, serious injuries – and fatalities – persist because shortcuts in approaching high-current electrical work continue to be taken. These are most commonly the result of improper or inadequate training, complacency and perceived time constraints leading to mistakes onsite.

However, with the right training and equipment, these accidents shouldn’t happen. The key is to promote a culture of non-negotiable adherence to safety at the level of the individual, as ultimately – besides the best rules, regulations and standards prescribed by the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act – it is the responsibility of each worker to exercise these best practices day in and day out.

By promoting strict adherence to optimum safety protocols, continuously delivering new electrical safety equipment and PPE to market, and providing adequate training, Surgetek is committed to reducing these electricity-related casualties in industrial applications.

Constantly striving to enhance the safety of industrial environments where risk of electrical injuries can be minimised, services and expertise are applied to develop solutions in situations and applications where protective clothing or equipment is considered inadequate in its current form or does not exist.

An example of this is the bright yellow 15 cal/cm2 LV PPE, a two-piece overall that is lightweight, easy and fast to equip. It is the industry’s highest-rated low voltage overall for arc flashes, and is developed in bright yellow, providing maximum operator visibility in underground mining environments.

Training, knowledge and implementation of best practices

Even the best equipment is useless if not applied and used correctly. Knowing what to use, and when to use it, is as critical as the quality of engineering within the equipment itself. The problem is that not every individual is properly prepared, aware, or takes seriously enough the risks involved with working with potentially lethal electrical currents. The consequences of not adhering to the best practices are often fatal.

Training is the perfect tool to remind electrical industry personnel of the importance of following safety protocol to minimise complacency. Training emphasises, and constantly reinforces, overall safety methods and procedures and their unqualified importance. The correct safety protocols and safety equipment needs to be understood, so that operators understand the benefits of taking time to implement the proper safety gear. Above all, training emphasises that not taking precautions is never worth the risk. There is never anything so critical that it requires forgoing the proper safety precautions. There is always time to equip the appropriate PPE and follow all safety protocol.

Leading edge in electrical safety developments

To remain cognisant of developments, the company has a tradition of working with relevant professionals to conduct research into solutions in areas where risk exists and equipment can be developed further. The company’s aim is not just to provide industry-leading protective products, but to partner this with knowledge of operators’ and workers’ attitudes and approaches to their work and safety so that the products have maximum usability and the best chance of reducing accidents.

This research aims to simplify the use of safety equipment by providing regulation PPE that is comfortable and provides maximum protection. As such, equipment supplied by the company is used to mitigate electrical surge risks by the world’s leading mining houses, collieries, Eskom, utilities, municipalities and by all major cellular networks across South Africa. Furthermore, surge arrestors and data protectors are installed in almost every petrol dispenser in the country.

The company will continue to use its proven range of surge protection products and application expertise to innovate new strategies to reduce electrical injuries caused by improper conduct with high current and arc flashes as intended by the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act.

Thank you to Sikhumbuzo Ngwenyafor the above article published on 12th August 2016.

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