Let’s face it – if you have ever worked around electricity you’ve probably got a few “shocking” stories to share resulting from an electrical mistake – at least that’s the case for our very own Product Managers and Product Engineers at AutomationDirect.com. Luckily, these electrical installation blunders didn’t result in any serious injury! We know making errors when working with electricity can be deadly, so we are not playing down the importance of electrical safety in any way. Instead, we’re hoping by creating this series it not only allows you to wonder at some of these memorable job site mess ups, but also reminds you of some valuable electrical lessons.
We would love to hear about your own electrical goofs – of course only as long as they didn’t result in any serious injury and are light hearted. Read below to find out how to submit your electrical installation teachable moment for a chance to be featured next time and receive an AutomationDirect.com hat!
At a previous job, one of our product engineers witnessed a panel checkout being conducted by an electrical technician. The technician asked the boss and senior Engineer, “How do I check the circuit breaker to see if it will trip/work properly?” The senior Engineer jokingly replied, “Use a piece of wire to jumper across the live circuit.” That is what the technician did. This created a direct short between conductors. The sparks flew because of the arc flash and a loud pop occurred. The technician was not harmed, but he learned a valuable lesson about arc flash and safety. Always remember safety first and use your proper tools for checking live circuits.
Communication Is Important
While conducting a start-up at a tire plant, one of our product engineers and his boss were doing a motor rotation check. The procedure consisted of one person toggling the PLC output bit to start the motor and the other person confirming the proper motor rotation. The tire sortation conveyor was very long and out of the line of sight of the control cabinet where he was programming the PLC. His boss called him on the walkie-talkie to tell him to toggle the sortation conveyor #3 for lane 4. So, as he toggled the PLC output bit for that motor, he heard a loud scream “stop the motor!” She was standing on conveyor #3 for lane 4. She really meant to ask for conveyor #4 for lane 3. His boss was not hurt, but she did take a nice ride on a very fast moving conveyor. Lesson learned: always communicate accurately and make sure you repeat to the person that you are working with what they are asking for. Check twice and act once.
During an upgrade at a steel mill, one of our product managers and his team were upgrading the PLC system. In order to keep the mill running they had installed the upgraded system in an enclosure next to the running system. In doing so they fed the system from the same power source as the running system, but installed a separate circuit breaker so they could reset the system as needed. The only problem with this is that they installed the circuit breaker right next to the circuit breaker that fed the running system. Well as luck would have it, one night as the engineer was ready to reset the upgrade system he switched off the wrong circuit breaker. This in turn shut down the whole running system, which then caused the steel mill to shut down abruptly. As soon as he switched off the breaker he heard the worst crashing sound you could imagine as all the steel just started to crumple on the line. He immediately turned the circuit breaker back on and hoped it would just start back up…but no luck. That little hiccup caused about five hours of work cleaning up the cobbled steel mess and about 2 million dollars of down time. Needless to say, after that he put some red tape over that circuit breaker, so that problem wouldn’t happen again.
To submit your own crazy electrical installation mistake(s), email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story and contact information. If your story is featured in one of the “Zapped” segments you will receive an AutomationDirect.com hat.