Electrical Hazards Are Everywhere
Every day, organizations worldwide are operating advanced machinery and complex systems using incredible amounts of electricity. In the hospitality industry, mechanical systems such as elevators and HVAC equipment are running 24/7. In manufacturing facilities, complex robotics and machinery as well as electrical systems such as compressors and control sensors are key to maintaining efficient production. And in retail environments, refrigeration units, lighting systems, and more are maintaining comfortable, ideal conditions for customers.
For many, electricity is just the fuel that keeps the engine running. And while we all know the importance of electrical safety, the reality is that there’s more to it than simply putting up signs. This is where infrared inspection services provide greater value and protection.
Virtually any electrical asset — from a breaker to a motor junction box — can experience a problem. This might include overheating due to a poor connection or a fault within a circuit. Another common problem may arise not as a result of issues with the asset itself but from the environment in which the asset is located. While dust might appear to be nothing more than a task for maintenance teams, certain dust particles can in fact be explodable or combustible. Over time, large amounts of dust can enter the inner workings of electrical assets. When exposed to excess heat and other factors, this dust poses a serious threat to worker safety.
These two hazards — in addition to many others — might not be at the top of your list of risks, particularly if you’ve never experienced an incident. But here’s the reality: every organization uses electrical equipment. All it takes is one incident in your facility — personnel-related or equipment-related — to bring operations to a halt and leave your organization with hefty fines. While electrical fatalities and injuries have been trending downward over the years, 2015 and 2017 in particular saw spikes in injuries while 2016 saw a spike in fatalities. Clearly, there is still work to be done.
How Infrared Inspection Services Work
Infrared inspection services are a proactive method for identifying and resolving these hazards and others before they turn into life-threatening, costly problems. But what is an infrared inspection? An infrared inspection is an analytical assessment of electrical assets using infrared images (along with digital and visual imagery) as well as extensive data collection. Performed by certified, safety-trained field technicians wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), infrared inspections reveal areas where electrical assets are at risk — particularly in areas of high temperature and excessive load.
In addition to thermal inspection, visual inspection identifies other potential risks and hazards such as the presence of materials left behind in the asset enclosure; clearance problems such as tools, cables, or other equipment left too close to the asset; improper fuse usage; or missing covers or knockouts. Each of these hazards poses a significant risk to employees working on or near the asset.
Beyond creating unsafe working conditions, producing thermal problems, and adding the potential for a lethal arc flash explosion, assets with performance problems can make a significant financial impact as well. On average, an asset with a problem results in $300 per year in wasted energy. When multiplied by the number of electrical assets and the level of severity they’re experiencing, the unnecessary energy costs can quickly spiral out of control.
It’s clear that infrared inspection services add value to an organization both in safety and in energy savings, but not all inspections are created equal. There are a number of different service providers available in the industry, but the reporting, recommendations, and support you receive from an inspection partner will differ greatly — particularly when it comes to the measurables and data points involved with the assets and facilities inspected.
Understanding the Key Measures of Infrared Inspection Services
At SEAM Group, our infrared inspection services are performed on-site over a number of days depending on the number of assets being analyzed. Upon completion, data is loaded into our ViewPoint web-based management platform, which provides the information organizations need in order to understand the entire infrared inspection. All assets inspected are itemized and accessible in-depth, meaning that you can drill down by region, facility type, and more to get a detailed view of each asset (as well as certain regions or facility types as a whole). This is just the beginning, though — let’s take a look at additional data points that ViewPoint provides post-inspection.
Problem and Anomaly Severity
Multi-facility organizations operate a significant number of electrical assets — often in the hundreds or thousands. Understanding what to resolve now is critical to preventing safety incidents as well as making the most immediate impact on energy savings and other financial factors. To ensure organizations can best know where to focus their efforts, a patented software tool called T-Max both analyzes the current condition of the asset and assigns a severity rating to it, allowing ViewPoint users to find the problems that need to be resolved urgently. Any critical findings from the analysis are reported to the client prior to the inspection team departing the site.
As asset data is captured (both OEM and from infrared), our software forecasts load level issues should problems go unaddressed or experience a heavy load. For example, if an asset began consuming more electricity and thus a heavier load, a potential problem with the asset might result in a higher temperature. If an asset with a max temperature of 75° and an electrical issue experienced a 50% increase in load, its temperature could rise dramatically — causing damage to the asset as well as