Preventative Maintenance: avoid problems in your marina before they occur

Damaged electrical equipment

Keep an eye out for damaged electrical equipment.

Preventative maintenance is an easy way to keep things running smoothly and to identify issues before they become a problem.  We perform preventative maintenance on our cars, our houses and even our teeth.

The ideal preventative maintenance program includes a schedule of planned maintenance actions aimed at the prevention of problems before they occur.  Among the industries that benefit most from a proper preventive maintenance program are the electrical and mechanical industries.  Studies show that the failure rate of electrical equipment is three times higher for components that are not part of a scheduled preventive maintenance program as compared to those that are.

The modern marina invests heavily in its electrical system.  Large facilities operate as miniature distribution centers managing expensive equipment and with it huge amounts of electricity.  On average, a large marina catering to mid-sized boats will require approximately 10,000 amps to service all its slips; for those catering to mega yachts it’s closer to 22,000 amps.  In comparison, the average home requires just 200 amps.

By setting up an electrical preventative maintenance program, marinas can potentially save themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and lost business, and may also qualify for lower insurance rates.

A thorough electrical preventative maintenance program includes four main components – visual inspection, tactile inspection, infrared imaging and ground resistance testing.  All actions should be well documented and saved.  It’s not only good practice but can help in the case of litigation.

Visual Inspection:  A visual inspection of all the facility’s electrical equipment should be conducted once a week.  This requires someone to walk the docks looking for potential hazards or problems.  Things to look for include corroding receptacles, signs of previous electrical fire, damaged wires, missing parts or pieces, damaged equipment housing, tangled webs of cords, and improper use of equipment such as the use of an electrical meter as a hose rack.

Another thing to look for is the use of splitters.  Not only are they not UL listed (which is required by NFPA 303, section 5.2), but they do not provide proper circuit breaker protection.  NFPA 70 electrical code, article 240.20-B calls for circuit breakers to open all ungrounded conductors of a circuit.  The result of the splitters improper circuit breaker protection, is the potential for a dangerous situation that can damage the boat and create a fire hazard.  Not to mention, should anything happen, the use of splitters is not covered by most insurances.

Tactile Inspection:  In addition to the weekly visual inspection, each month the marina should perform a manual inspection of all electrical components to ensure proper operation and voltage verification.  This action should be performed on all power centers as well as electrical panels.  For seasonal facilities, a tactile inspection should be performed just prior to opening for the season and each month during.

Infrared Imaging:  Recent technological advances in tools for inspection and diagnosis have enabled even more accurate and effective equipment maintenance – infrared imaging is one.  It is recommended that infrared imaging be perform annually on all of the marina’s electrical equipment; it can have a significant impact on your troubleshooting and maintenance productivity and potentially save thousands of repair dollars and hundreds of hours of lost service. The decreased liability of a thermally inspected electrical system even encourages some insurance providers to offer discounted rates.

Ground Resistance Testing:  Ground resistance testing should also be performed annually.  Since proper grounding of electrical equipment is vital to maintaining a safe environment in and around the marina, guidelines concerning grounding should be strictly adhered to.

A proper preventative maintenance program is not only required by code but makes good business sense.  NFPA 303 section 5.20.1 calls for the inspection of all electrical wiring, ground connections, conduit, hangers, supports, connections, outlets, appliances, devices and portable cables installed or used in a marina, boatyard, boat basin or similar establishment to be made a regular intervals to ensure a complete inspection at least annually.

The thing to keep in mind is that the key for any effective preventative maintenance program is that it needs to be effectively designed, follow a strict routine and show meticulous accurate documentation of all actions.

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