Storms and floodwaters can devastate a business and its workforce. Most water-damaged equipment, even if thoroughly dried, can pose serious long-term safety and fire risks. These tips can help employers decide which equipment must be replaced and which can be reconditioned to prevent structural fires and keep employees safe.
1 Identify the water source.
How did the water get in and get to the electrical equipment? The amount of time a water source is exposed to contaminants impacts whether equipment must be replaced or reconditioned. Electrical equipment can be protected from future damage by assessing how the equipment was damaged. Future damage may be avoided by elevating the equipment, waterproofing, or sandbagging before a storm.
2 Assess the water quality.The damage to electrical equipment can be affected by how long it was submerged or exposed to stormwater and by the nature of the stormwater. Ocean water and salt spray can be the most damaging due to the corrosive and conductive nature of salt water. Floodwaters can also contain oil, chemicals, sewage, debris, or other substances that can affect the safety and performance of electrical equipment.
3 Conduct an evaluation.
Always have a qualified electrician evaluate water-damaged electrical equipment. Returning power to water-damaged electrical devices or equipment without a proper evaluation can result in an electrical fire, shock, electrocution, or further damage to the device.
4 Contact the manufacturer.
Before reconditioning water-damaged equipment, always contact the manufacturer for specific recommendations. Attempts to recondition equipment without consulting the manufacturer can cause life-threatening injuries or property damage.
5 Consult with the local authority having jurisdiction.
Always check with the local authorities to establish permitting and inspection requirements. In counties and unincorporated areas without a city inspection office, contact the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Facilities operating under any permits should also consult the permitting agency.
6 Use only qualified people to replace or recondition electrical equipment.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International offers the following guidelines to ensure a safe workplace:
Water-damaged equipment that must be replaced includes:
- arc-fault and ground-fault circuit interrupters;
- lightning, ballasts, and LED drivers;
- low and medium voltage fuses;
- molded-case circuit breakers;
- outlet and junction boxes;
- signaling, protection, and communications systems;
- surge protective devices;
- switches and dimmers;
- uninterruptible power supply; and
- wire or cable (for dry areas).
Water damaged equipment that may be reconditioned:
- high voltage AC circuit breakers;
- low and medium voltage switchgear;
- low-voltage power circuit breakers;
- switchboards; and
- wire or cable (for wet areas that have not been damaged or ends that are not exposed).
Learn more about electrical safety:
- National Electrical Manufacturers Association:
- Electrical Safety Foundation International:
- Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation-Workplace Safety:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency, Preliminary Disaster Assessment Guide (pdf)