HSE moves to allay switchgear concerns

19 August 2010

The Health and Safety Executive has moved to assuage concerns that could have been caused by a statement from Daresbury Laboratory in the UK. Potential confusion may have been caused by comments regarding a replacement programme for oil-filled switchgear, which the Executive says does not exist.

In the original article a quotation from the Estates facility manager at Daresbury, included the phrase "HSE guidelines recommend a replacement programme for oil-filled switchgear".

Ken Morton, HM principle electrical inspector from the Health and Safety Executive said this is incorrect.

In a statement sent to Control Engineering UK Morton said: “Daresbury Laboratory appear to have followed the guidance in HSE publication HSG230 Keeping Electrical Switchgear Safe in respect of making an assessment of aged switchgear (see page 32 of HSG230).”

Morton highlights the following paragraph:

In particular this advises that ‘the risk of catastrophic failure (particularly in the case of oil switchgear) increases with age and so a process of assessment is needed in order to decide on the appropriate action for dealing with aged switchgear in service. Such an approach should incorporate condition assessment where appropriate. Application of this process will enable rational decisions to be made on whether to retain, refurbish or replace each switchboard and allow investment to be directed to best effect. The decisions are made on the basis of condition and on the potential risk of leaving individual switchboards in service. The decision-making process follows the assessment actions displayed in the following flowcharts.

“From this you will see that we recommend a replacement programme for switchgear, of any extinguishing medium, if it is DMO operation, or utilises plain break contacts or is insufficiently rated to handle the expected fault level at the board and corrective measures cannot be put in place to eliminate these matters,” continued Morton. “In summary HSE do not recommend a replacement programme for oil filled switchgear provided it meets these criteria. If other types of switchgear (e.g. vacuum or SF6) did not meet these criteria then the dutyholder should consider replacement of these items in line with the guidance in HSG230.”

Publication HSG230 can be freely downloaded from the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg230.pdf 

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