Following the Biswanath Chariali tragedy where a worker died of electrocution while working on an electrical pole, Engineer Ujjwal Sarmah writes on why safety measures are of paramount importance when working with high-voltage electrical systems.
A very unfortunate incident occurred yesterday at Biswanath Chariali. Being an electrical engineer having extensive experience in similar field in India as well as abroad, I can vouch that these kind of incidents, fatal accidents rather, can be avoided by bearing minimum safety concerns in mind.
Safety is to be one’s habit than imposed to get a safe working environment. Of course, for this, safety culture is required to be developed which may call for some expense. But, at the end, loss of life cannot be justified for any expense.
At our class lectures, our professors had repeatedly said that no one should develop friendship with electricity. Unlike other friends, it never spares the life of a friend even for a simple mistake.
Here are some very basic points anyone should follow while working on electrical systems - more specifically in case of high voltage systems.
• Firstly, one should confirm the status of the line before taking up any work on the electrical system. For this, there are numerous tools but the most convenient one is the non-contact type voltage detector. It gives sounds as well as visual indication on presence of voltage from a distance. Cost of such a unit is not very high.
• Secondly, the person must ensure earthing of the overhead lines at both sides of working points at a visible distance. This is required to keep the work location safe from any induced surge. Induced surge may be generated due to various reasons, such as crossing of two separate systems somewhere, due to lightning, or may be due to accidental fall of a snapped line under which this working line is passing.
• This kind of earthing also provides safety to the working personnel from electrocution due to wrong switching of the feeder from a remote location. Of course, with a little bit of systematic approach, wrong switching can be totally avoided.
• Besides this, a robust “Electrical Work Permit” system is a must for the network APDCL has to work with. Mere communication over phone by a linesman to control centre is not sufficient. There should be a failsafe mechanism to ensure positive isolation of a feeder. And more importantly, the permission authority to switch on a feeder should lie only with the work permit acceptor.
• A standard Operating Procedure with checklist is another safety tool for such work.
It is not very difficult to conceive that in case of emergency, there is every chance as well as need to overrule these safety measures. But with a cultured approach, this mindset can be changed as around the world, basic safety measures are never bypassed.
Again, loss of life cannot be justified for time or money.
Er Ujjwal Sarmah, BE (Electrical)
Partner, H-BUS Equipment Manufacturing Company