Powering better safety

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As many businesses seek to resume the status quo after an unprecedented chapter of economic upheaval, minimizing downtime and optimizing efficiencies will be high on the agenda. However, with many industries operating a vast, ever-expanding infrastructure this must be coupled with an increased focus on electrical safety. Here, Ronald van Leeuwen, Global Product Manager for NeoGear, for ABB Distribution Solutions advises on how the latest generation of switchgear can help.

The modern business has much to consider – the economy, mounting legislation, the green agenda, tighter deadlines and budget restraints; the list could go on. For many, another key priority will be seeking to recoup any losses incurred due to the operational disruption caused by various national lockdowns.

One of the most pressing issues not to be overlooked is the need for heightened electrical safety standards.

Today’s businesses are using more electrical devices than ever. From electric cars and smart automation to fully digitalized businesses, the level of electrical power that workers, key personnel and the general public are exposed to is increasing every day.

Although underreporting makes it difficult to determine the true state of play, recent figures suggest a significant number of electrical incidents are happening around the world each year in line with increasing demand.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), 2019 had the most recorded fatal electrical injuries since 2011. In the United States alone it’s estimated that there are 350 electrical-related fatalities a year – which roughly equals to one fatality per day. 2 This figure becomes much worse in developing economies where regulation is lacking and electrical accidents continue to injure and kill people at an alarming rate.

Even more concerning is the cause of these tragedies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that more than half of electrical incidents reported in the United States are caused by direct or indirect contact with live electrical equipment and wiring, circuit breakers, control panels, junction boxes and transformers. Hereby, the tragedy is that these deaths could have been prevented if proper procedures had been followed, along with better product specifications.

In this vein, it becomes more important for businesses to govern their expanding infrastructure and pay due diligence to the integrity of protective solutions used to enable better safety. In response, leading manufacturers continue to introduce new innovations designed to take safety standards to the next level.

One example can be found with the next generation of NeoGear and the revolutionary laminated bus plate technology from ABB – arguably, the safest low-voltage switchgear ever made.

Unique to the market, NeoGear features a fully encapsulated bus plate design in a breakthrough laminated technology – which had previously been limited to use in the automotive and aerospace industries – to replace traditional horizontal and vertical busbar systems.

The result is an unprecedented level of safety with no exposure to live parts. Its revolutionary design enables an arc ignition protected zone, keeping maintenance personnel safer when performing routine works and repairs, while also reducing the risk of arcs caused by mechanical failures – one of the most serious safety risks that switchgear operators encounter. To put this into context, even if a screwdriver falls into the busbar area during maintenance work, it would be a remote possibility to ignite an arc.

Adding to its vast safety credentials, NeoGear has 90% fewer electrical joints than traditional busbar systems. As reductions in electrical joints in switchgear proportionally increases reliability this provides even greater integrity in line with overall safety measures.

Asides from its huge safety benefits, NeoGear is also incredibly efficient. Its unique technology enables better cooling efficiency to reduce heat losses by up to 20% and reduces overall operational costs by up to 30%, due to more efficient condition monitoring. It also reduces the physical switchgear footprint by up to 25%.

Future-proofing is accounted for too. In line with ABB’s wider designs on enabling the next generation of electrical distribution, NeoGear is ready to support the digital factory of the future with its cloud computing and industrial IoT features.

Amid increasing exposure to electrical power, the industry will continue to come under pressure to drive better safety across the board. Therefore, for the future-focused business, the recommendation is to take stock of the latest switchgear innovation which can help to drastically improve safety, enable easier maintenance and sustainability, and ultimately, help power better standards for all.

2 The American Burn Association (www.ameriburn.org)