Keeping Skills Current on a Limited Budget

2-Part Series

Published: May 2017
By Jim Phillips

 

Part #1:

 

What if you had been stranded on a deserted island for the past five years? By the time you were rescued, you would have missed the explosion of real-time social media, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, mobile marketing trends, as well as advancements in smart grids and wind and solar energy—it would be more than you could imagine. You may think, “I was only lost for a few years, how could industry and technology change so rapidly?”

 

What if you were stranded for just one year? You would have missed the latest Internet-of-Things (IoT) smart home technology, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology movies, toys and games. You even would have missed the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) and the 2015 soon to be 2018 edition of NFPA 70E.

 

Get the idea? Just as the world continues to turn, with or without us, technology continues to change at a very fast pace. If you pause for too long, it will pass you by, and catching up could become quite a challenge. If you’re leaning against the ropes, you might as well learn them, so you can rebound faster and better.

 

There is an endless list of reasons for keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date in the electrical industry. One reason is that many licensing boards require a contractor to attend a minimum number of hours of training each year, often referred to as continuing education. A participant receives credit known as professional development hours (PDHs) or continuing education units (CEUs). However, one of the best reasons is simply to stay current with the latest technology in the electrical industry.

 

What do competitive companies recognize that others do not?

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What Could Go Wrong?

Creating An Electrically Safe Work Condition

Published: April 2017

By: Jim Phillips

 

“Kill the Circuit.” This phrase is a colorful way of saying, “De-energize the Circuit.” Easy enough — just open a switch or other protective device and the circuit is “dead.” It should then be safe to work on right?

WRONG! Simply opening a switch does not guarantee the circuit is de-energized. Really? What could go wrong?

There are many who still consider this simple “kill the circuit” approach to be standard electrical safety practice. This is a very dangerous method, for example, instead of the circuit being dead, the worker could end up dead!

According to NFPA 70E, there are many additional steps necessary to ensure the circuit is truly safe to work on. This multi-step process is known as creating an “electrically safe work condition,” which requires the following steps:

  1. Determine all possible sources of electrical supply – check up-to-date drawings, diagrams, etc.
  2. Interrupt the load and open the disconnecting devices.
  3. Visually verify that all blades of the disconnecting means are open if possible – drawout devices must be withdrawn to the fully disconnected position.
  4. Apply lockout/tagout devices in accordance with established policy.
  5. Use an adequately rated test instrument to verify absence of voltage.
  6. Apply properly rated ground connecting devices if there is a possibility of induced voltage.

(These steps are paraphrased from NFPA 70E 120.1 Process of Achieving an Electrically Safe Work Condition, which should always be used to define the complete procedure).

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Arc Flash Study Top 10 FAQs Part #2

How Does Everyone Else Do This?

By Jim Phillips

3-Part Series

 

ELECTRICAL SAFETY PRACTICES

  1. Does your company or client permit energized work where the incident energy is greater than 40 calories per centimeter squared (cal/cm2)?

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Arc Flash Study Top 10 FAQs Part #1

How Does Everyone Else Do This?

By Jim Phillips

3-Part Series

 

There are many frequently asked questions about performing an arc flash study (risk assessment) and understanding electrical safety requirements. A careful read of standards such as NPFA 70E or IEEE 1584 can answer some questions. Yet, other questions can be more complex, gray areas can lead to confusion, second-guessing and wondering how everyone else does it. Continue reading

Forensic Electrical Engineering Blog #3

Past – Present – Future

3-Blog Series

By Jim Phillips, P.E.

 

Blog #3: Evolution in Forensic Electrical Engineering

There has been much advancement in the field of forensic electrical engineering since the days of Morse, Latimer, Edison and others. A few of the more significant advancements include:

  • Better Understanding of Electric Shock and Arc Flash Hazards
  • Codes and Standards
  • Computer Simulations

Personal injury that is a result of contact or exposure to energized electrical conductors is usually due to electric shock/electrocution and/or burn injury from an arc flash. In the early years of electrical power systems little was known about these hazards other than they can occur. Today, research, testing and new and improved electrical standards have greatly expanded the knowledge of these hazards. Continue reading

Forensic Electrical Engineering Blog #2

Forensic Electrical Engineering

Past – Present – Future

3-Blog Series

By Jim Phillips, P.E.

 

History of Forensic Electrical Engineering

Some historical articles suggest the field of electrical investigations began hundreds of years ago when early attempts were made to provide a scientific understand lightning. Of course lightning has been around since the beginning of time and was usually explained using philosophical and religious views before scientific explanations were first made. Continue reading

Forensic Electrical Engineering Blog #1

Past – Present – Future

3-Blog Series

By Jim Phillips, P.E.

 

Blog #1: What is Forensic Electrical Engineering?

Welcome to my 3-part blog series about the Past, Present and Future of Forensic Electrical Engineering. In this blog series, you’ll get insights into what can be considered some of the first forensic investigations into electrical engineering. Beginning way back in the 1700s with the study of lighting and “bell ringers” up to today’s investigations using elaborate computer simulations to recreate events. Welcome back each week to digest the next bit of insight, data and information.
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Electrical Safety Training: It Will Save Your Life!

By Jim Phillips

Performing electrical work without being properly trained can be deadly. I have seen this hold true during numerous investigations.

Many companies proactively provide employee training and refresher courses at least every 3-years. Some companies use shorter intervals for refresher training. However, for others, training is not thorough or a low priority. Some simply just want to check training off their to-do lists without much regard to safety for self or employees. In the end, does it matter? Continue reading