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Electrical safety: Raising awareness

05 December 2017

Mechanical engineers and maintenance technicians at Spirax Sarco in Cheltenham are benefiting from on-site tailored, hands-on electrical safety training courses provided by Technical Training Solutions

Spirax Sarco designs, installs and commissions new steam facilities, as well as optimising and upgrading existing steam systems, while advising on system design and maintenance. Its 3000m2 site in Cheltenham includes a Steam Technology Centre, where dedicated steam and thermal energy R&D takes place, as well as The Energy Centre, which includes a fully operational combined heat and power plant.  

Andrew Marshall, projects manager at Spirax Sarco, says: “The steam and thermal energy industry has changed quite dramatically over the last decade and our employees have had to adapt too.

Traditionally, a Spirax Sarco project engineer or maintenance technician had a strong mechanical bias, as most of our products were mechanical in nature. However, there’s been a shift in requirements in the world of steam and thermal energy. New projects require steam solutions that integrate with a plant’s energy management system.

"A variety of measurement and monitoring systems therefore need to be built into our own steam systems, such as sensors, PLCs and other instrumentation devices. This means our maintenance teams and project engineers need a mix of mechanical and electrical engineering skills. As part of this, we wanted to ensure that our employees who deal with electrical equipment have an awareness of electrical safety and who could also act as go-to experts for others.”

Electrical safety

After searching online, Marshall contacted TTS. He says: “I didn’t want a training course that was too theoretical, but something that was more hands-on and relevant to our engineers. TTS visited us to discuss our requirements, then went away and devised a specific five-day course that precisely matched our needs” 

The challenge for TTS, says Marshall, was devising a course that catered for those who had absolutely no electrical knowledge or skills, with those who had some electrical experience.

The course itself, which was hosted by TTS instructor, Gary Vine, featured a number of electrical topics, including the basic electrical principles, series and parallel circuits, electrical devices such as switches, solenoids, relays and contactors, transformers, electronic soft starters, inverters and electric motors. Other topics included fault finding (overload, short circuit, Earth faults, etc.), IP ratings, voltage testers, cable colour codes, factory distribution systems, circuit diagrams, Electricity at Work regulations, and a guide to electrical isolation and the dangers of electricity.

The first training course was provided on-site at Cheltenham for eight employees who were a mix of maintenance engineers, managers, project engineers and graduate trainees. A half-day cut-down version of the course was provided to 12 other Spirax Sarco staff. TTS provided all equipment and materials required for these courses.

Vine comments: “Our approach at TTS is always to teach course attendees to ‘learn by doing’. At Spirax Sarco, the course we devised started with the basics of electricity before progressing to the different types of electrical equipment and the relevant safety legislation. We included lots of practical exercises and fault-finding techniques. For me as an instructor, I get a real buzz from seeing light bulbs go on in people’s eyes when they learn something new or fully understand a new topic.”

Marshall adds: “The course was designed specifically for us, which is really important because it means that our engineers could relate all of the course content to their day jobs. Much of the course content involved hands-on exercises such as the building of electrical circuits, testing of circuits, problem-solving and the dangers of electricity.”

“The key benefit of the TTS training is that our managers and engineers can now apply the most up to date safety legislation and best practice when working with electrical equipment, both here at Cheltenham and on-site at the customer."