Electrical Safety Audits: A key practice to avoid accidents and fires

Shreegopal Kabra, MD, RR Kabel

Electricity plays a vital role in enab­ling every aspect of modern life, be it at home or at work. However, it is also an immensely powerful and dangerous force – one that poses significant risks if not handled with care. Faulty, da­maged or outdated electrical equipment in residential and commercial buildings can trigger accidents and fires causing severe damage to life and property.

Hence, needless to say, electrical fire safety measures should be a key priority for property owners. One of the most im­portant actions that can be taken to prevent any unfortunate electrical incidents is to schedule electrical safety au­dits from time to time.

What is an electrical safety audit?

An electrical safety audit is a comprehensive inspection of electrical systems carried out by qualified professionals. Fun­damentally, the purpose of this audit is to assess the systems and identify pot­ential electrical hazards as well as non-compliance with safety standards and regulati­ons to take corrective action.

Understanding the electrical performance of the system, improving the system’s energy efficiency, increasing the safety and lifespan of electrical equipment and identifying areas of improvement in safety techniques and practices are also among the key objectives of the audit process.

Scope of an electrical safety audit

The scope of an electrical safety audit may differ, based on the nature of the bui­lding. Broadly speaking, here are some of the aspects that are covered un­der an audit.

Residential properties: Physical ins­pec­tion of electrical meters, cables, MCBs, etc., placed in the meter room and of the main electrical distribution board in each individual housing unit. Measure­ment of the actual load (current) of common area utilities such as pump panels, lift panels, lighting panels and of home appliance circuits in each housing unit. Checking the insulation resistance of cables in each housing unit. Thermo­gra­phy of each housing unit’s meter and main electrical distribution board. Tes­ting the earth pit resistance of the building. Study of the building’s lightning arrestor.

Commercial properties/facilities: Che­ck­ing the earth resistance of sockets and earth pits and assessing the earthing and lightning protection systems of the facility. Review of the facility’s electrical networks and systems, including ensuring proper functioning of protection devices. Assessment of the facility’s electrical preventive maintenance program­me. Ther­mo­graphic scanning for hot­spots within the electrical equipment and installations. Verification of proper labell­ing/wa­r­ning signs on equipment. Reviewing co­mpetencies and records of personnel associated with electrical safety and hazard management and identifying training needs to close gaps, if any.

Procedure followed for an electrical safety audit

An electrical safety audit process typica­lly begins with a pre-audit meeting, wh­e­­rein the scope and guidelines for the audit are discussed with the property ow­ners or building authorities.

Following this, an on-site inspection is carried out to identify potential electrical hazards based on the scope of the audit. This includes a thorough inspection of all electrical systems and equipment, and verification of installations based on single-line diagrams, earthing layouts and other available drawings and records. A review of all relevant documents related to maintenance, past electrical records and inspection reports is also completed. After the completion of the audit pro­cess, a final audit closure meeting is held, wherein findings and recommendations are discussed with property owners/building authorities, with the agreed plan of action being detailed in a final report.

Prevention is better than cure

Electrical accidents can be devastating, both financially as well as in terms of da­mage to human life. It is, therefore, cri­tical to take steps proactively to prevent such incidents from occurring by ensuring that electrical systems of buildings function safely and effectively. Electrical safety audits, conducted regularly and in a professional manner, will go a long way towards making homes and workspaces fire safe.