Elements of an Energized Electrical Work Permit


blog author iconJon Travis
date icon2020 / 01 / 03
blog views icon742

Energized Electrical Work Permits (EEWP) are one of the most important tools in any company’s approach to electrical safety.

In this article we are going to go over everything you need to know about them including:

  • What is Energized Electrical Work?
  • What is an EEWP?
  • When is a permit required?
  • Justifications for working energized
  • The critical elements of the permit
  • and more!

If your company has taken the first steps in introducing an electrical safety program, then you probably have decided to adopt a guiding principle that essentially says “our electricians will not do energized work”. 

Even though you've said this, you still need to use an energized work permit.

Aiming to never do energized work is exactly the kind of attitude most companies should take when dealing with electrical safety. 

But it doesn't come without a significant challenge… 

If you want your electrician’s diagnostic testing and troubleshooting to be successful and you want your plant to stay in operation for more than 30 minutes at a time, then I’m afraid what I said above is worse than challenging... 

It’s impossible.

So what can we do?

Well, I still think you should hold on to that guiding principle that got you to this point (it’s still the way you want your electricians thinking 99% of the time) but you need to tweak it a little bit. 

You need to add some exceptions to the rule. 

You need an energized work permit and a clear definition of what it is for and how to use it.

What is Energized Electrical Work?

Finding the definition for energized electrical work is no easy task.

First, you need to understand “energized” and “energized parts”.

  • Energized: electrically connected to or is a source of voltage.
  • Energized parts: electrically energized conductive components.

Secondly, you need to understand what the standards define as “work” or what they call “working on”… I’ll paraphrase the definition.

Working on: intentionally coming in contact with electrical conductors or circuit parts with the hands, feet, or other body parts, or with tools, probes, or test equipment.

And finally, you need to add to that these two conditions:

  1. When work is performed within the restricted approach boundary; or
  2. When the worker interacts with the equipment when conductors or circuit parts are not exposed but an increased likelihood of injury from an exposer to an arc flash hazard exists.

If you combine all of these ideas then you end up with the following definition:

Energized Electrical Work: when working on or near exposed energized electrical conductors and/or circuit parts or when interacting with the equipment when conductors or circuit parts are not exposed but an increased likelihood of injury from an exposer to an arc flash hazard exists.

So, if you’re going to go ahead with working energized and you do have a policy that strictly prohibits it (which you should), then you’ll need an energized electrical work permit.

What is an Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP)?

An energized work permit is a written document that acts as a “code of practice”. A code of practice is required when you are making an exception to a rule (in this case working energized).

It shows you have taken extra precautions to avoid the dangers of electricity and most importantly you have proper justification and sign off for the work to be done energized. 

It’s a written permit to work for an electrical worker to use when he or she is doing something that normally could be done on de-energized equipment.

This can also act as a management tool to stop people from working energized when they don’t need to be.

When is an Energized Electrical Work Permit Required?

The easiest way to determine whether or not an EEWP is required for a specific job is to ask yourself this simple question:

“Is it possible to do this job with the power turned off?”

If YES then you need a permit in order to do it energized.

That’s it.

Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1: Checking Fuses

Q: Is it possible to check fuses with the power turned off?

A: Yes

This means if you want to check fuses with the power on you would require a permit.

Example 2: Measuring Current

Q; Is it possible to measure current with the power turned off?

A: No

This means you would not require a permit to measure current.

So, once you decide that you need a permit there are still plenty of times that the permit can be approved.

At this point you need to determine the proper justification for working energized.

Justifications For Working Energized

There are 4 major reasons why you may be allowed to work on energized electrical equipment.

#1: Infeasibility

If it is possible to complete the task at hand while the equipment is de-energized, then you should do everything in your power to make sure it is de-energized while you do it. 

Some examples would be removing an MCC bucket, testing a fuse, or re-wiring a lighting panel. All these are tasks can be and should be completed when the equipment is de-energized.

 If the task is impossible without the power on… like taking a voltage measurement, or shooting an infrared image of the circuit parts, then you can consider that task “infeasible” and it is perfectly acceptable to do this work with the power on. 

Just make sure you are wearing the appropriate PPE and using the appropriate tools!

#2: Part of a Continuous Process

The most controversial justification for energized work is work to be performed on circuits that form an integral part of a continuous process. 

Typically, the de-energizing the motor control center to work on one bucket, which will cause the entire process to go down. 

While on one hand, it is possible to de-energize the MCC on the other hand, you will quickly be out of business if you do that every time. 

This is a perfect example of when the energized work permit is required.

#3: Additional hazard or increased risk

Probably the best example to really drive this point home is working on life-support systems in a health care facility. 

Working on this equipment while energized certainly poses a threat to your health and you will need to take extra precautions to ensure you stay safe. 

When compared to removing the power to a person’s life-support system it is easy to see what is the greater risk. 

Fill out the permit and site that the greater risk is to those relying on the life-support system.

#4: Less than 30 volts

If you take the time to look at your electrical system and determine that those circuits that are operating at less than 30 volts have no arc flash potential then it is perfectly acceptable to work on those circuits while energized. 

Most of these will be control circuits and if you shut down the control then you will lose most of your process at the same time.

One thing to be careful of is if the control transformer is located inside the panel you are working. 

Often the line side of this transformer is exposed and energized with 600 volts. 

Make sure to apply rubber guards before working on the control circuits.

Critical Elements of the Energized Electrical Work Permit

There are three main sections that the permit should consist of: 

  1. the request for the work to be completed (with justification)
  2. the job analysis including associated hazards
  3. the acknowledgement and approval signatures

The Request & Justification

If you are an industrial electrician the “request” to do energized work on electrical equipment should always be coming from someone else. 

Nine times out of ten that request is going to come from operations. 

Whether you work in the pulp and paper, mining, or oil and gas industry the operations team rarely wants to shut down the process for any reason.

They will probably need some help understanding what circuit you need to work on and how to describe the work, but the justification needs to come from them.

The Job Hazard Analysis

There are several components to the job hazard analysis portion of the work permit. 

It’s really no different than any other job hazard analysis except at the end of it all you will be working on energized equipment.

Job procedure and safe work practices

Because of the high-risk nature of the energized work you are about to perform it is critical that each step of the process has been thought about and documented. 

If there is a procedure already developed for the work you are about to perform, then you can simply reference the procedure and attach it to the work permit. 

If not, you will need to take the extra time required and write out all of the steps for the job making sure to include any additional safe work practices required. 

Shock risk assessment

In order to determine the required rating of your rubber insulated gloves, and any tools that you may need to do the job, you have to determine the voltage level of the circuit you are working on.

Arc flash risk assessment

At this point you’ll need to determine what arc flash PPE is required for the job and at what distance will you need to set up barriers. 

If you’ve had an incident energy study completed, then go and get the numbers from the label. 

If you do not have a study completed, no worries, just follow the arc flash PPE category method.

Restrict access

When working on energized electrical equipment the last thing you want is a supervisor or operations foreman looking over your shoulder. 

For your peace of mind and everyone’s safety make sure you barricade the area at the appropriate distance (either the limited approach boundary or the arc flash boundary, whichever is greater).

Job briefing

Once you have all the necessary information compiled for the job hazard analysis take this time to review the work with all parties involved. 

Make sure everyone has their thinking caps on and is looking for any potential hazards that may have been missed.

Acknowledgement and approval Signatures

Once you and any other qualified electrical workers involved are happy with the plan and all agree that the work can be done safely you’ll need to sign off.

Because of the nature of the work to be performed, additional approvals are required to ensure that there is alignment across the team.

Your organization can decide for themselves who will be the responsible parties to sign off but usually you would have an electrically competent person (maybe an electrical foreman or an electrical engineer), and someone from operations or safety. 

But it really depends on how your organization is set up and what you are comfortable with.

It just needs to be signed off by a person in authority.

Now It’s Your Turn

Check if you have energized electrical work permitting process in place (EEWP)

So that’s all I’ve got on energized electrical work permits.

Now I want to turn it over to you:

  • Which idea from today’s guide will make the most impact on your organization?
  • Do you already have a permitting process in place?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now. 

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