Used electrical equipment or electrical systems are like used cars in that they are always full of surprises: “surprise, it works” or “surprise, it doesn’t work” — and if they do not work, the consequence can cause serious injury or death. The analogy between used electrical equipment, or electrical systems, and used cars could continue without end (“Is it supposed to make that noise?”, “What’s that smell?” etc.); so, in summary, there are good and bad aspects that are the direct result of design, operation and maintenance — and poor design, incorrect installation/assembly, improper operation, and lack of maintenance can cause serious injury or death.

Notwithstanding, new equipment will have inherent hazards, but without installation/assembly or a history of operation and maintenance, the risk is limited to the integrity of the design.

At Southwest Energy Systems, our engineers and technician work with new and used electrical equipment and electrical systems daily. Our service calls may occur during design review, installation, routine maintenance, troubleshooting, or modifications to equipment and systems – more recently we have received an increased number of service opportunities working with relocation of used electrical equipment.

Relocation of used electrical equipment cuts to the heart of Electrical Safety in the Workplace — this process reveals the adequacy of design, diligence of installation/assembly, appropriateness of operation and competence of maintenance. To inspect and test and integrate such equipment from one location to another is to truly bear witness to all aspect of OSHA compliance and the necessity of codes and standards.

It is generally an uncomfortable experience for facility managers and equipment owners to justify their selection of poor design, or incorrect installation, or improper operation, or lack of maintenance … since we are often brought in as third party, it is much like being called out for bad behavior by a peer. The typical response we receive is to plead ignorance, or to remain stubbornly indifferent, neither of which are acceptable for the person responsible for the safety of their workers. It is even more awkward for responsible persons in organizations with a written safety program.

When the discussion of safety becomes uncomfortable, it is time to take a step back and reflect on how we arrive to this point – then we must review the facts at-hand and develop a plan to move forward. We have posted about the evolution of OSHA compliance and codes and standards in our earlier blogs. For the next year we will present a monthly series covering workplace safety from the perspectives of operators to equipment owners. These upcoming posts will include Equipment Study, Short-Circuit Study, Arc-Flash Safety Program and Equipment Maintenance in practical application.

Much like used cars, used electrical equipment and electrical systems can be outright admirable. Some of the equipment that we get work with is old enough to be shown in a museum, but surprisingly it is still on the production floor, working like new!