Minimising electrical risks in the workplace

Hire Intelligence
Thursday, 25 July, 2013

The skilled worker’s job in electrical safety certification is made easier with the use of rapidly improving and evolving technologies. Thermal imaging is one such technology. Thermal imaging cameras are beginning to lead the way as a cost-effective and practical solution for eliminating many electrical risks.

Legally, any person conducting a business or an undertaking is primarily responsible for that safety under s. 274 of the Work, Health and Safety Act (WHS Act). A duty of care is owed to all workers and others in the workplace - so far as “reasonably practicable” - that they aren’t exposed unnecessarily to electrical risks arising from that business or undertaking.

Regulation 147 of the WHS Act states: “A person conducting a business or undertaking must manage risks to health and safety associated with electrical risks at the workplace.” What this means in practice is that the ‘duty holder’ is in charge of and/or responsible for eliminating those risks, or where complete eradication of the dangers is not practically feasible, then those risks must be minimised as far as is sensible. A duty holder must identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risks; maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective; review, and if necessary revise, all risk control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.

Of course, besides the legal issues surrounding health and safety in the workplace there are other practical issues, such as cost and efficiency, to bear in mind.

Obviously you cannot put a price on the safety of your workforce, but a responsible employer must be aware of the costs incurred in making the workplace a safe environment. They must also remain aware of the potential greater costs in failing to adhere to these regulations - litigation resulting from failure to implement a successful health and safety policy can be devastating to businesses, their owners and the employees who rely on them to make a living.

Safe Work Australia advocates the importance of a trained professional sticking to the rules when it comes to health and safety regulations via their published codes of practice.

Electrical risks in the workplace can be identified with thermal imaging cameras. They ensure the implemented control measures are running smoothly and help to review risk control measures, says Scott Cole, Assistant Manager at Hire Intelligence Australia.

“Thermal imaging cameras are essential for anyone concerned with electrical equipment maintenance, particularly those looking to identify potential problems before they become too costly to repair. If you are responsible for equipment maintenance, no other technology delivers the application flexibility or business benefits of thermal imaging cameras.The WHS Act in itself isn’t the only piece of legal documentation in regards to electrical health and safety. The Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZ 3760: ‘In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment’ recommends in-service inspection and testing to ensure the safety of those using electrical equipment in the workplace. Occupational health and safety legislation also decrees that many workplace electrical appliances and fittings be tested as frequently as every six months.

“In addition, many insurance companies are now requesting evidence of a thermal imaging report when renewing policies, as they see preventative maintenance as an extra step in reducing the instances of electrical fires,” said Scott.

“Thermal imaging technology scans and visualises the temperature distribution of the entire surface of machinery and electrical equipment quickly and accurately. It detects extremely small temperature differences, identifying heat spikes from energy loss, missing or defective insulation, leaks or moisture, and produces an image with the tiniest details to help resolve problems fast. This can be carried out at a safe distance from the hazardous area, away from harm, and without any intrusive building work, such as pulling up floorboards or knocking through walls, to disrupt business or home life.

“The latest thermal imaging cameras, available for hire, are more robust, dust- and water-resistant, sharper, with focused and clear images, have a temperature measurement range of -20 to +350°C with a manual focus, and allow recorded audio to be attached to each picture taken for future reference. The quality of the image has also improved dramatically, as the camera now combines a digital photo with an infrared (IR) image, taking the mystery out of IR image analysis.”

Being able to analyse and report the information found is vital, and the progress of this technology has developed in line with the cameras. Products range from a simple software that allows users to organise and analyse radiometric images on the camera and quickly present them in a report, with intuitive and easy-to-use online tools, to systems that incorporate features, such as fusion and trending, and provide greater flexibility in report design and layout. For a professional thermographer, dedicated software allows advanced analysis of building structures and includes customised building report templates for applications, such as safety reports and even energy cost analysis.

We’re talking about a piece of technology that, by various designs, is intrinsically suited to exactly the kind of job that arises from having to adhere to the WHS Act and similar and surrounding legal codes of practice.

“Whether it is a lightweight handheld infrared camera that fits easily in a tool belt or a full-featured, high-definition infrared camera, the technology is available to suit every level of sophistication, analysis and reporting need.

“As the user becomes more adept with the technology, they find new uses for it. The opportunity to upgrade cameras in line with evolving experience, knowledge and demand is an essential element for this constantly improving technology, as is the need to upgrade supporting equipment. For example, the inclusion of wireless technology in thermal imaging camera design enables data from a Wi-Fi-enabled moisture meter or clamp meter to be transferred to the corresponding thermal image. This technology also allows thermal imaging cameras to ‘talk’ to mobile devices, such as an iPhone or iPad, allowing images to be shared with colleagues so that swift decisions can be made to prevent loss of production and minimise risk.

“With constant advances in technology and the cost of purchasing thermal imaging equipment, it is often advantageous for businesses to hire high-end test and measurement tools from a reliable rental provider. There is no initial outlay for items, as the cost is spread over the hire period and all rental equipment is fully tax deductible. Also, storing, maintaining and disposing of items is the responsibility of the rental provider, and a reliable supplier will offer technical support as and when you need it.”

“The most significant benefit thermal imaging cameras can have on a business when used for equipment maintenance and troubleshooting is the impact it has on return on investment. By hiring the equipment, you reduce the initial outlay costs dramatically and ensure you always operate using the most up-to-date and effective technology,” said Scott.

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