Troubleshooting

1. General Requirements

a) Troubleshooting is a complex task that we need to take time and verify to make sure we do not damage any equipment or hurt anyone.

b) The most important thing that we need to do is to take a risk assessment of what you are going to be troubleshooting.

i. Identify the electrical hazards associated with the task and the electrical system, or electrical process involved. (Example: shock hazard risk; arc flash hazard risk).

ii. Identify the electrical work to be performed within the electrical system or process.

iii. Define the possible failure modes that result in exposure to electrical hazards and the potential resultant harm.

iv. Assess the severity of the potential injury from electrical hazards.

v. Determine the likelihood of the occurrence for each hazard.

vi. Define the level of risk for the associated hazard.

vii. If the level of risk is not acceptable, identify the additional measures or corrective actions to be taken. Example: wear appropriate PPE and if the risk is too great, do not perform the task.

c) 10 most common electrical safety mistakes

i. Underestimating the dangers of lower voltage levels

1. It’s only 120 volts (or 208 or 480).  The only difference between low and high voltage is how fast it can kill you.  High voltage kills instantly.  120V shock can take days depending on the path.

ii. Not wearing PPE during troubleshooting

1. PPE can be hot, uncomfortable, restrictive, and slows the work process.  But, the reality is, component failure can happen at any time.  PPE is the difference between safety and injury.  

iii. Using outdated or defective test equipment

1. Signs it is time to upgrade your equipment.

a) Unreadable faceplate

b) Can’t get the same measurement from one reading to the next.

c) Loose, cracked leads

d) Not safety rated for your work environment.

iv. Not performing required maintenance of power system equipment

1. Too often companies look at maintenance costs as an overhead expense and don’t regularly inspect electrical equipment.  But, the real costs associated with broken down equipment include:

a) Unscheduled down time

b) Loss of production

c) Overtime

d) Employee health and safety

v. Neglecting to properly inspect test instruments and leads

1. Before beginning to test the equipment, inspect and test the instrument to ensure its working properly.

a) Verify that your instrument has the proper CAT rating for the job being worked on.

vi. Using the wrong test tools for the job

1. The cheaper tools usually do not meet the safety standards needed for safe testing.  Those safety features could cause an unexpected injury.

vii. Replacing the original fuses with cheaper fuses

1. Meters that meet today’s safety standards include a special high energy fuse designed to pop before an overload hits your hand.

viii. Working on live equipment without proper preparation

1. First make every effort to de-energize the system.

2. Complete the Energized Electrical Work Permit

3. Establish a safe work zone and detour traffic if necessary.

4. Verify the test equipment meets requirements.

5. Wear the appropriate PPE for the hazard level.

ix. Failure to use the Energized Electrical Work Permit

1. It should provide a guideline for planning the work, assessing the hazard and the risk, choosing the proper PPE, verifying the proper piece of equipment.

x. Multi-tasking while working on a live circuit

1. When working on a live circuit, multi-taking may increase speed and efficiency, but, the risk isn’t worth it.  There is too much of a chance of being injured or damaging the equipment.

d) Questions to ask pertaining to specific situations.

i. Likelihood of an event(risk)

1. Has the equipment been installed in accordance to the NFPA 70?

2. Has the equipment been maintained and tested in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions?

3. How old is the equipment?

4. Is there any visual indication of overheating?

5. Is any component, device, or equipment loose or damaged?

ii. Enclosure questions

1. Do all the enclosure doors operate and latch properly?

2. Is the enclosure arc rated?

3. Has the enclosure been examined for dust, dirt, soot, or grease?

4. Is there any indication of overheating of the bus?

iii. Circuit Breaker Questions

1. Has the breaker been operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions?

2. Has the right sized breaker been used?

3. Have the proper conductor types and sizes been used?

4. Is there any evidence of cracking, heating, or discoloration?

5. Have the inverse time and/ or instantaneous overcurrent trip been set properly?

iv. Motor questions

1. Is the motor clean and free of debris that can cause overheating?

2. Is it feeding any product lines, are they clean and free of obstructions?

3. Is the motor feed from a drive?

4. Are there any fault codes to assist?

e) Always remember that troubleshooting is not a quick and easy fix.  We want the problem to be fixed.  Not just temporarily fixed unless the client signs off that they are willing to accept the fix till it can be permanently fixed.  Temporary fixes just prolong the process and cause more damage to the equipment or worse yet injuring someone.