Safe Return-to-Service Following a Maintenance Outage

Best Practices for a Safe Return-to-Service Following a Maintenance Outage
Charles M. McClung, MarTek Limited
Russell R. Safreed, PE, MarTek Limited


Returning electrical equipment to service after a planned maintenance outage creates a unique set of hazards. Facility managers are under stringent time constraints for taking the system out of service, performing necessary maintenance tasks (as well as making un-anticipated repairs) and returning the system to service by the appointed time. These common, real-world factors may create circumstances that place workers at great risk as the system is returned to service. This paper seeks to identify those initiating factors and develop logical and practical ways to lessen or eliminate risks.

It’s all a setup, with good intentions.

Most well-run, progressive-minded companies readily accept the fact that their electrical distribution system is fundamental to the operation of their facilities. Maintaining the electrical is not an option—it is a ‘must’, not merely from a continuity of operations perspective, but also from a loss prevention perspective. Delaying the restart of a manufacturing process after a planned maintenance outage because of ‘schedule creep’ or ‘scope creep’ can be costly. Extended outages caused by major equipment failure can be devastating.

As important as these economic factors are, the prevention of a life-altering injury or death trumps all economic incentives. However, few would disagree that protecting people is also another form of loss prevention. Aside from the moral responsibility that is incumbent on employers to protect their workers, the failure to adequately protect people will likely result in significant economic losses in the form of OSHA fines, medical payments, higher worker’s compensation premiums and litigation.

Electrical maintenance outages are high-stress for everyone concerned. The Plant Manager just wants it to be over so operations may be returned to normal as soon as possible. The Electrical Distribution Engineer wants the greatest amount of work possible to be done in the allotted time to help ensure he never has to answer to the Plant Manager for an unplanned outage. The Maintenance Crew wants to be thorough and do a good job, but they also know the criteria for deeming the job ‘well done’—returning the system to operation on-time and with just enough ‘bad news’ about the condition of the equipment to justify the expense of the outage, but with not so much ‘bad news’ that a re-start is delayed or that significant repairs would be necessary.

All of these real-world pressures and sometimes competing objectives can produce a high-risk condition when the time comes to re-energize the electrical system following a planned maintenance outage.

Three major categories of risk-creating scenarios will now be explored. READ MORE

Maintenance of LV components inside HV cabinet

Good Morning All,

I am from the Safety Office and our organization prohibits working on electrical components/systems above 600V. I have a situation that I need advice on. Here is the background:

There is a group of Electronics Technicians/Engineers who believes they are responsible of an electrical system just because it resides in their occupied building. Inside this building is an 15kV CB which disconnects a transformer bank 11.5kV:570V, 540V and an 8.32kV harmonic filter (in a cabinet) from the substation (11.5kV). In this cabinet, there are LV fans and pressure sensors that they guys want to maintain and do housekeeping such as dusting. The management is fully supportive of getting contractors to do this work for them but they are very much adamant that they can do this work since they will be in an electrically safe condition utilizing LOTO (their LOTO procedure was not approved).

Our office has told them they cannot access this cabinet and the lead engineer is very persistent and insisting that they are only working on the LV side inside the HV cabinet. ANY THOUGHTS? READ MORE.