It is currently Sun Oct 22, 2017 5:01 am



Post new topic Reply to topic Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
ekstra   ara
 Post subject: Wyomiles says hello and asks some questions
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:23 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posts: 9
Hello all, I have been an operator for the past 25, plus ,years. I have worked in many dangerous situations with machines, chemicals , temperatures and pressures that could kill a person in seconds so I am not afraid to do the work. I have worked in underground mining, a phosphate fertilizer plant, Soda ash and bicarb plants, Natural gas fractionation, R&D in coal to liquids and wood to liquids green field sites and most recently for a large electrical company at one of their large coal fired power plants.
I have always done lock out, tag outs, on 480V breakers as part of my operational duties. Until recently I have never had to deal with anything larger than that.
My current employer has assigned the clearing out of 2400V and 4160V breakers to the operators. Which means that the operators rack the breakers in and out. I ,and most other operators here, do not feel comfortable with this work. We have told management this and they say that it has always been done safely,(it hasn't) and that we must do this work .We are afraid that we will lose our jobs if we refuse.
This equipment is from the 1940s and 50's. So it is well past its intended life. The breakers are of about 7 different manufacturers and always give us trouble. The PPE that we wear is minimal, A face mask on our hard hats, a long coat, and linesmans gloves. Operators are given a class which is a few hours long where an electrician shows us each brand of breaker in the plant and explains to us the steps to take to rack the breakers in and out. I have questioned why electricians and lineman have to be trained for several years to work on this type of equipment and we are good after only a few hours. I have also asked why this is not done by more experienced people like electricians or lineman. Seems to me that you would want to have the least amount of people exposed to this danger rather than more.

I have written e-mails to several layers of my management including VPO's, and spoken out about the dangers of having operators do this work in several plant meetings. It all seems to fall on deaf ears.
How do I stop the insanity ? :confused:


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:22 am 
Offline
Sparks Level
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jun 07, 2008 5:11 pm
Posts: 143
Location: Connecticut
If the operators are properly trained, the company can say these individules are "qualified" to open/close/remove breakers. This meets NFPA 70E Article 110.3, 110.6(A) thru (E). This practice is quite common in industry where non electrical people have to LOTO starters and disconnects.

The term "qualified" doesn't mean "electrically qualified" as would be the case for electricans and linesmen. No place in NFPA70E does the word "electrically" in conjunction with "qualified" appear. People confuse this all the time and assume it means electrically qualified.

In this case the training is limited to breaker operation only and not working on, testing or repairing electrical equipment. I'm not taking sides only stating what the NFPA70E standard defines.

However, the company must identify hazards, provide a safe work environment and provide PPE as mandated by OSHA.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:57 am 
Offline
Sparks Level

Joined: Wed May 13, 2009 3:19 pm
Posts: 56
Just as a point of reference arc flash protection requirements for utilities are covered under the NESC rather than NFPA 70E.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:12 am 
Offline
Plasma Level

Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:58 am
Posts: 1103
Location: Charlotte, NC
Also want to point out that just because it is 4160V does not mean a larger arc flash hazard, typically you will have a larger arc flash hazard on your 480V breakers than you do on MV. If the tables are used in lieu of an arc flash study both LV and MV are HRC 4 which requires a 40Cal/cm2 arc flash suit as a minimum.

Part of the required training to deem someone as "qualified" requires the proper selection of PPE, which obviously has not been met.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:04 pm 
Offline
Sparks Level

Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2010 5:02 am
Posts: 136
What if the breaker fails to fully rack out? Does an electrician have to come and rectify the situation? How long til they are available? With a MV breaker stuck, I would think that situation is starting to climb up the "unsafe condition" ladder..

60-70 year old MV breakers would make me want to take a second look, if I wasn't familiar with their operation... There is one thing that I am sure exists everywhere - The right to refuse unsafe work.. Not sure how that route works (procedures and protocalls)...

My two cents...


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:59 am 
Offline
Sparks Level
User avatar

Joined: Sat Jun 07, 2008 5:11 pm
Posts: 143
Location: Connecticut
I believe the intent of Article 110 is to provide training and information so the job task can be done safely and hopefully, know when it can't be done safely. In the case of a breaker that fails to rack out properly, the person performing the job should be trained to contact the necessary people to fix the problem.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 9:10 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posts: 9
Thanks for all of your replies. I guess my only recourse is to refuse to do the work, which I have done in writing. Amazingly enough I was contacted by our COO the day after I wrote this post. He says he will send the VP of operations to talk with me about this. There is no doubt in my mind that it is all show and nothing will change but I guess it won't hurt to talk with the guy.

I guess I do not understand how something that everyone knows is a killer can be treated so casually.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:25 pm 
Offline
Sparks Level

Joined: Mon Mar 29, 2010 5:02 am
Posts: 136
Wyomiles wrote:
Thanks for all of your replies. I guess my only recourse is to refuse to do the work, which I have done in writing. Amazingly enough I was contacted by our COO the day after I wrote this post. He says he will send the VP of operations to talk with me about this. There is no doubt in my mind that it is all show and nothing will change but I guess it won't hurt to talk with the guy.

I guess I do not understand how something that everyone knows is a killer can be treated so casually.


It can't hurt to talk.. One big thing that lots of people have a tough time getting their heads around is using caution with something that you can't see.. If you have a water leak, you see it.. If you have a steam leak, you see it.. If you have an electrical leak, there may not a gyser of water, but a hole in a piece of equipment, with some melted steel and hopefully no injuries...


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:39 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 13, 2008 5:00 pm
Posts: 24
Wyomiles wrote:
Thanks for all of your replies. I guess my only recourse is to refuse to do the work, which I have done in writing. Amazingly enough I was contacted by our COO the day after I wrote this post. He says he will send the VP of operations to talk with me about this. There is no doubt in my mind that it is all show and nothing will change but I guess it won't hurt to talk with the guy.

I guess I do not understand how something that everyone knows is a killer can be treated so casually.


I heard a similar situation years ago about a different hazard. The employee with the concern was ignored. There was utlimately an accident and instead of the employee getting to say "I told you so" management's view was the employee should have been more convincing with his concern about the problem. :mad: Not sure what happened after that but I imagine an army of lawyers were involved.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:55 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posts: 9
k.Cutler, ya that is probably what will happen here.
I Had the meeting. Pretty much a waste of time, as I knew it would be. These guys just don't care. They have decided how it is going to be and even though they know it is a bad decision they are a freight train going down the track. I have started looking for work , I hope to find a place where they might actually care about my safety and not just talk about it. I am begining to think that those places don't exist. :(


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:19 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jul 13, 2008 5:00 pm
Posts: 24
Wyomiles wrote:
I have started looking for work , I hope to find a place where they might actually care about my safety and not just talk about it. I am begining to think that those places don't exist. :(


I think there are few out there. From some of the forum discussions, it seems most everyone here takes all this very seriously and tries to do their best as they should. Hopefully your case is the exception and you'll find greener (safer) pastures.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 7:01 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posts: 9
Hello all, I haven't been around for a while. Still fighting this battle. After meeting with the VP of the company , and several other managers, there was all sorts of activity. They did an arch flash study, which proved that everything I had told them was correct. They finally bought a few flash suits. and a few machines. We went through some training on the subject, which again showed all of the other operators how nasty an arch flash can be, many of these guys had been manually racking 4160 breakers out with no PPE for 30 years !
But they found out that the machines were breaking some of the equipment and that there were breakers that were to high cal for any PPE.
All of a sudden we were not allowed to use the machines and we were suppose to put on several layers of PPE to get the max cal rating. Back to square one in my opinion.
So they then installed some sort of fiber optic shutdown system that will kill the whole bus if a breaker flashes, and they are now telling us ( just this morning ) that it is all perfectly safe to rack these 4160 breakers out "in our birthday suits" !
I am really confused now. I do not trust these guys to tell me the truth and they could care less about our safety.
So I guess I am wondering what the real truth is. What do you guys think about this fiber optic system? What about layering suits? Should I be calling OSHA or some other agency for help?
Thanks for letting me rant ! This stuff scares the life out of me!


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 7:49 am 
Offline
Arc Level
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2008 5:00 pm
Posts: 676
Location: Rutland, VT
Ok, sounds like they installed a fiber optic arc flash relay system which will trip the source breaker fast enough to reduce the arc flash hazard to a lower level than previously. My concern would be what breaker is considered the source breaker (is it installed in the same switchgear that breaker being operated is in?). I have seen utilities that have done the arc flash studies in-house and applied the same methods used in substations and overhead lines to generating stations. There have been deficiencies in that approach as a power plant is more in line with industrial facilities.

_________________
Barry Donovan, P.E.
www.workplacesafetysolutions.com


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:56 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posts: 9
I am not an electrician so I do not understand most of this stuff. I have been told that they installed it inside the cabinets along the back and top of the switchgear. All of the switchgear for each unit are in one big room for each unit. Which includes the main switches or busses. Some of these rooms are outside the main building next to the main transformers.
I am told that if the fiber optics sense an arc they will kill the whole bus, shutdown that unit.
Today we were told that this fiber optic stuff makes it so there is no flash and that we no longer had to use the PPE.
This company does have powerplants and substations and all of the lines etc for distribution, in several states. The strange part is that they seem to treat this issue differently in different plants.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:23 pm 
Offline
Arc Level
User avatar

Joined: Wed May 07, 2008 5:00 pm
Posts: 676
Location: Rutland, VT
Each plant maybe different configurations and arc flash hazards, so that may be why it is treated differently.
It is possible that the relay will react fast enough to reduce the arc flash energy significantly (ie no special ppe is needed) as long as the trip time of the relay and operate time of the breaker it is tripping as well as any devices in series in that trip circuit (such as a lockout relay, 86 device) is all taken into account. Your statement about all the switchgear in one room leads me to question what breaker is being tripped. My reasoning for that is that in an arc flash analysis, the main breaker for a panel or switchgear is not used in the sequence to determine an arc flash hazard. As a simplistic example, think about the circuit breaker panel in your house. There is a main breaker located in the panel (usually) that is where the service entrance conductors come in to the panel into the breaker. The breaker is attached to the bus bars in the panel off of which all the individual breakers to the stove, lights, outlets, etc are fed. It is plausible that if there is an arc flash incident in the panel, the flash consisting of molten metal could cause a flash over of the service entrance conductors coming into the top of the breaker. This breaker is therefore not going to provide any protection in removing the source of the flash. Therefore the next device upstream has to trip to remove the energy source. In this example that would be the utilities fuse on the primary voltage side of the transformer on the pole outside your house.

_________________
Barry Donovan, P.E.
www.workplacesafetysolutions.com


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:14 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posts: 9
Thanks WBD, I am still trying to get my head around all of this.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:38 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posts: 9
Wyomiles wrote:
Thanks WBD, I am still trying to get my head around all of this.

OK, I just went for a walk and got some more info that might help. These are outside buildings made of steel. About 21 ft wide by 50 ft long. There are two large transformers, one at each end, spaced about ten feet from the building. These feed into the building. Inside there are two rows of breakers ,one row on each wall seperated by a 6 ft walk way the length of the building. Some of the cabinets are labeled this way... Bus, Transformer, power center, start up transformer, Aux transformer, 480 volt power center, normal feed unit. Then all of the equipment breakers.
After the study was done they stuck stickers on each cabinet door that says. No safe PPE, incedent energy 99, flash protection boundery 139.5 ft limited approach 60 inch, restricted approach 26 inches, prohibited 7 inch.

We also have house power rooms inside of the building made of cement blocks that are set up more or less the same way .


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:03 pm 
Offline
Plasma Level
User avatar

Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:08 am
Posts: 1779
Location: North Carolina
You may just have an older design where cost overrode safety and reliability (a few very large transformers are cheaper than spreading out the loads), or you may have a double ended system which is done for reliability but if taking the worst case approach of assuming that all tie breakers are closed instead of the normal operating case with ties (or one main) open, the engineer analyzed it with everything connected together which roughly doubles the energy. It is also a common mistake to make a lot of other assumptions which make thr calculations easy and "save" money but elevate the results for the arc flash calculations. Sometimes you also see stupid settings, poor breaker design/layout, etc. All of these things didn't matter until everyone started paying attention to how much energy could be released if a failure happened. New designs try to minimize the amount of energy and actually increase reliability and decrease operating costs.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:16 am 
Offline
Sparks Level

Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 7:10 pm
Posts: 248
Location: NW USA
I have worked at many plants and have yet to see a management team that doesn't care about worker safety. By the time their politically correct posture (required to keep their jobs) filters down to the operators it might seem so, but indeed, even the most frozen hearted plant managers I've encountered get deeply disturbed when operators get hurt. They don't show this as their careers depend on it.

It sounds like your plant took remedial action. That could be a great retrofit.

The fiber optic sensor installed is there to detect a fault as it occurs and will turn the power off QUICKLY in such case. Although to human perception they all seem like "big explosions", the actual heat output from faults is greatly dependent on time duration and from our calculations it can be seen that chopping off a fault at 300milliseconds instead of 600 milliseconds is often a huge, life and death, difference.

This solution does depend on upstream breakers operating quickly and properly, which might seem like an act of faith (I would rather be protected by passive systems of limited output), but the quick operation is also a requirement of their fault current withstand ratings: that is old science that should be well established long before arc flash exposure was on our minds. It's not something you ever want to take for granted, wear the best PPE they gave you, and be assured that those breakers should open on time based on about a 100 year history of power system protection.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:13 am 
Offline
Plasma Level

Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:58 am
Posts: 1103
Location: Charlotte, NC
Gary B wrote:
. It's not something you ever want to take for granted, wear the best PPE they gave you, and be assured that those breakers should open on time based on about a 100 year history of power system protection.


That is a big assumption and is based off design criteria. Once those breakers are in service and specifically if they are not properly maintained history actually shows us some pretty high failure rates.

A 2007 IEEE paper addressing the reliability and integrity of low voltage overcurrent protective devices reviewed various surveys. It was found that nearly one‐third of all circuit breakers failed while in service and thus would not have been identified unless proper maintenance was performed. In addition, 16% of all circuit breakers failed or were damaged while opening.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 25 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC - 7 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to:  
cron
© 2017 Arcflash Forum / Brainfiller, Inc. | P.O. Box 12024 | Scottsdale, AZ 85267 USA | 800-874-8883