Electrical work poses many risks and hazards to its frontline workers on a daily basis. It is up to electric companies to mitigate these risks and incorporate new technologies that help reduce the need of onsite manual labor and increase the use of automation and remote visibility.
Common Hazards on the Job
In order to recognize the level of risk mitigation that technology can bring to the electric table, first it is important to consider the most common hazards associated with electric work.
Overall, the most extreme risk in electrical work is fatal electrocution. Electrocution can occur as an outcome of contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protective equipment or regulations, a discontinuous or missing path to ground, and misusing equipment for unintended manufactured purposes. The risks increase in the presence of metal working equipment, or when the location of a worksite is underground or enclosed in a small space. At the moment, workers are expected to always be cognisant of the risks around them, especially in the presence of buried power lines, to ultimately prevent electrocution. However, electric companies should make it a priority to actively work against these risks before they become a possibility.
All of these risks, though, can be eliminated by modernizing equipment and processes in order to reduce the need for hands-on operations. Sure, safety training is always a successful method in order to engage employees in learning about risk prevention, but it is also important to consider the concept of Prevention through Design (PtD). PtD is a proactive effort to minimize and eliminate occupational risks by changing the design process, rather than requiring workers to wear more PPE, for example. This concept offers a more streamlined approach in order to make a workplace safer, and can apply to a multitude of technological advancements for the electricity industry. Some of these advancements include…
Automation in LOTO
Traditionally, the Lockout-Tagout process (LOTO) took a more manual approach and required workers to shut off machinery and equipment at the completion of a workday. Now, this process has been automated, and its goals are trifold: enhance workplace safety of the workers, increase reliability of the LOTO process, and ultimately decrease the number of hazards on the job. One of the most popular LOTO automation advancements are Absence Voltage Testers (AVTs). AVTs meet all of the goals that electric automation strives to accomplish: a remote device can initiate an absence of voltage test before removing doors or protective covers, which on the workers’ end, reduces the risk of injury greatly. AVTs also increase the reliability of the process, as it will not fall short to human error. In addition, these devices can conduct what is typically a 10-minute process and condense it to just a few seconds, eliminating extra downtime and increasing productivity.
Electrical construction has seen quite a few technological advancements from a robotics perspective. For example, underground cable cutters have been designed to operate from a remote control and reduce the risk of electrocution for workers. Pole climbing robots are also in the works in order to perform utility work in place of a human worker. These advancements make the process, essentially, risk-free and only require the remote operation of a frontline worker. This type of maintenance is especially important when considering dangerous working environments, such as at nuclear facilities, bases of hydropower dams, and transmission and distribution (T&D) lines.
Thanks to the advancements made with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), electrical equipment has adopted sensored devices and machinery that can allocate data collection, analysis, and real-time results. These diagnostic tools do not require the need to remove the protective coverings of equipment: they can be installed internally and have an external screen available for workers to evaluate on an as-need basis. This allows for more remote communication with automated machinery and eliminates the need for a worker to inspect and interact with faulty equipment with the associated risk of shock hazards.
For example, predictive maintenance and prescriptive maintenance tools allow for this kind of remote visibility for electric workers. Predictive maintenance evaluates data collection from the machine to evaluate its overall efficacy, then notifies the worker if maintenance is required. In addition, prescriptive maintenance goes the extra mile in order to provide real-time, specific solutions to best address the issue at hand, which ultimately reduces the risk of injury for the frontline worker. And, not to mention, this will increase productivity for the company, as there will not be a need to undergo a lengthy process to troubleshoot a problem.
Anvl has the ability to operate in limited or offline capability so you can manage your worksites from a distance and support your Prevention through Design efforts. We create software that helps identify hazards to workers and provide real-time data insights on how to mitigate hazards in the workplace.