Delay in Fixing Electrical Issue Leads to Heavy Damage – A Case Study

Infrared inspections are a great tool for identifying critical issues, but analysis of the fault severity and immediate actions are essential to avoid catastrophic failures. The case in point is elaborated in the following paragraphs.

This is what happened in a 39,000 Sq Ft office building when electrical switch gear failed, leading to a fire and about $300,000 worth damage.

Maintenance personnel performed an infrared inspection prior to the building’s one-year warranty expiry. This is the period when equipment / system faults surface during their infant mortality stage.

The inspection on March 3 revealed a critical connection-based thermal issue in the building’s electrical switch gear. The concerned electrical contractor determined the issue was with a loose factory-torqued connection, which was generating excess heat. Being a “during warranty” defect, the contractor contacted the manufacturer, who began investigating. The connection continued to loosen as the off-site investigations progressed, leading to the catastrophic failure and fire on April 14. Failure to complete the simple defect rectification for 41 days, resulted in major loss and other problems to building users and maintainers.

In addition to the extensive damage to the equipment and premise, the office building was closed for two days. Tenants were further inconvenienced by having to move, rearrange and deal with repairs. “Just because a building is new, doesn’t mean there can’t be equipment problems. It’s important to take findings seriously and act on any critical issues as quickly as possible.

With Infrared, Seeing is Believing

Infrared inspections use high-tech cameras to measure thermal energy being emitted from a given object. But, a much lower tech tool can be equally effective for successful infrared inspections – the naked eye. Visual inspections can detect issues that might not be readily apparent in an infrared survey or in test data, such as:

  • Building and electrical code violations
  • · Debris and dust build up
  • Damaged equipment
  • Unsafe conditions, and more

If left undetected, such issues can compromise the safety and efficiency of electrical and mechanical equipment.

A thorough infrared inspection should involve both an infrared survey and a visual inspection, with a side-by-side thermal image and corresponding photo of each item inspected and provided in a complete report. This allows the field thermographer, additional technicians and managers to review the images and photos to ensure no issues are overlooked in the field. Such thorough, non-destructive testing has proven to be particularly effective in identifying equipment condition and issues. Below are a couple of examples indicating benefits of visual inspection and imaging.

Dirty enclosure

Wrong Wiring Practice

Wiring Defect of problem areas uncovered by technicians with visual inspections that were not detectable using thermal imaging.

This wiring violation was detected through a visual inspection. It was not fire safe and could have led to a fire.

Damaged and dirty equipment is readily apparent through a visual inspection. If not cleaned, it could lead to a fire.

This article points to the importance of regular visual inspections and thorough  maintenance to ensure the tightness and integrity of all electrical connections.

We regularly read many news reports about fire damages to office buildings, warehouses, industries due to negligence in these aspects.

The age-old saying, “A stitch in time saves nine” is literally true.

This article was adapted from a page found in a website.