1st Technical Seminar

IEEE Karachi Section’s Series of Technical Seminars

In 2013, IEEE Karachi Section has taken an initiative of conducting monthly technical seminars by reputed industrial and academic experts for the benefit of its members. The first seminar of this series was held at National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (NUCES) City Campus in Karachi on 1 March 2013, titled Electrical Safety Requirements for Workplaces to Avoid Fire Hazards.

The presenter Engineer TahirSaleem, a seasoned engineer working in the power engineering field for a good many years and CEO of United Engineering Services, started off with the unfortunate incident of a factory fire which happened in a thickly industrialised area of Karachi in September 2012. This incident, purportedly caused by an electric short-circuit, resulted in the death of 289 workers by severe-degree burns, smoke inhalation and the subsequent stampede.EngSaleem outlined the necessity of awareness to the workforce about the hazards and controls of safety, both directly and indirectly involved in an industry. The standards for electric safety have been clearly laid out by international and local institutions but very rarely followed in private sector organisations and quite little in public sector. The Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services (OHSAS) Regulations Applied for Electrical Safety give a guideline in this regard, and Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), the local regulatory authority, have stringent rules for electrical safety in all workplace environments, and especially on manufacturing/production floors, which are directly in contact with safety risks.

Pakistan has the world’s tenth largest labour population according to the CIA World Factbook, and this number places a huge responsibility on the HSE stakeholders to ensure promulgation and adherence from those at the highest rung of an organisation to those at the bottom. Personal safety and protection is another aspect which was highlighted in the seminar, which includes equipment like gloves, hard hat and boots, to training and regular drills which trigger automatic responses in case of actual emergencies. In addition, it is essential to regularly check electrical safety devices, including fuses of appropriate ratings, circuit breakers of the correct make and size, relays and magnetic contactors. Earthing (grounding) as a practical concept, especially for power plants and transmission and distribution houses, was delineated as an ingrained habit in all workers, for which the NEC has outlined codes to be followed. Focus was also laid on separate neutral and ground conducting, as well as on flash protection boundaries. He briefed the audience about temperature effects on PVC cables, the importance of residual circuit devices, and following the proper code for changing lighting and fixtures.

EngSaleem said all workplaces have a responsibility towards their employees and contractors that they are frequently trained on safe practices and remain ever-ready for any incidents. He also deliberated on the necessary precautions needed by trained personnel when dealing with hazardous materials including asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyl, and on making inspection and testing a regular feature of activities. He stressed on the use of safe voltages, and reminded the audience that leakage currentlimiting value is 3.5ma.

EngSaleem concluded his seminar by expressing his sincerest hope that more workplaces should become vigilant and exercise their focus on electric and general safety, because more often than not, the focus is on production and manufacturing, and indifference towards safety causes much more harm in the end.