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How to Ensure Electrical Safety in Building Construction: Best Practices & Automation

HP SitePrint Blog

How to Ensure Electrical Safety in Building Construction: Best Practices & Automation
HP SitePrint Blog

What building construction safety measures are required by electrical engineers at a given site may vary—but what's constant is the need to bridge the design phase into physical work with the absolute minimal chance of errors. Deciding how to ensure electrical safety in building construction empowers all technicians tasked with future security. That's because enhancing safety throughout the electrical installation process sets the foundations for security when the building is fully functioning.
As we'll discuss, layout automation may be an important element of maximizing electrical safety, both during construction and finished site operations alike.

Understanding Safety & Security Systems

Building security and safety depend on numerous overlapping electrical systems that must be planned for early in the design/build process. It should come as no surprise that electrical contractors are most directly responsible for achieving maximum security and safety system uptime and interoperability.
What building construction safety measures are required by electrical engineers include (but aren't limited to):

  • Fire alarms and suppression
  • Surveillance
  • Access control
  • IT and communications systems
  • Safety and maintenance equipment (such as motorized platforms)
These and many other functions depend on properly integrated electrical work. In many ways, deciding how to ensure electrical safety in building construction requires bridging the design phase and installation process with the utmost accuracy.
That's even more true considering there's very little room to fundamentally alter security and safety systems once they're installed. It should come as no surprise, then, that only the most well-equipped engineers can optimize security systems from the beginning—and, in doing so, set the course for long-term building security.

Detailing Effective Safety & Security Systems

With all this in mind, knowing how to ensure electrical safety in building construction requires thorough risk assessments. Take into account all of the following:

  • Hazard identification
  • Testing equipment and procedures
  • Building characteristics
  • Occupancy limits
  • Regulatory and technical standards
Fulfilling risk assessment duties also requires hiring staff with the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience in safety compliance and, preferably, construction layout planning. In fact, the former depends on the accuracy of the latter.
These are just several reasons the construction industry is generally eager to implement construction automation. However, most companies hesitate to commit whole operations to a given automation technology, except in piecemeal, limited applications with proven returns.
MEP system design is one notable exception, and not just in the realm of software. As automation empowers electrical safety and security technicians to physically print their layouts onto working environments, the entire industry achieves greater headway into physical site automation.

Electrical Installation Procedures

So, exactly what building construction safety measures are required by electrical engineers to ensure long-term safety, as well?
Installing safety and security systems requires strict step-by-step procedures, extending all the way from design, layout site printing, and wiring to placing and configuring components. From start to finish:

  1. Design engineers develop and finalize a 2D CAD layout for the total electrical system, often aided by electronic design automation (EDA) software.
  2. With fully automated site printing robots, site print techs can create an exact copy of the layout directly onto building surfaces, including text notes and color-coded systems.
  3. Head contractors facilitate inspections to validate site designs and obtain permits—where any inaccuracy in the previous two steps can severely hamper operations and drive costs.
  4. Electricians implicitly follow the printed site layout's wiring diagrams, sometimes aided by automated machines for drilling holes, routing wiring harnesses, etc.
  5. Lead technicians install and configure electrical equipment and circuit breakers (again, following the site print's exact layout instructions), typically aided by voltage regulators.
  6. Lastly, electrical engineers consult with security and safety compliance experts to determine optimal configurations of the equipment.
Every step is an essential part of how to ensure electrical safety in building construction. This final stage is the culmination of all the previous efforts, which altogether bear massive ramifications for future building security and safety. But it's actually step two that has the largest impact on how well technicians translate their painstaking safety and security planning into fully functioning and compliant systems.
By autonomously drawing electrical layouts  for security systems and integrated safety equipment, you'll eliminate guesswork and cut down on time and labor expenses. Automated layout site printing is an important aspect of modern construction, as it resolves several overlapping pain points for BIM and hands-on construction (not to mention long-term system efficacy):
  • Manual layout increases the chance of errors—and at the most critical juncture.
  • All construction teams depend on clear, timely instructions to maintain cohesive efforts.
  • Site printing robotics provide greater headway in the overall push for construction automation.
  • ·       Conflicts between building systems must always defer to security and safety concerns—meaning accuracy is paramount.
For these reasons and more, automated layout site printing shows new construction stakeholders how to ensure electrical safety in building construction with less guesswork and risk.

Integrating Safety and Security Systems Into Building Infrastructure

Manual layout processes always leave room for interpretation. But safety and security particularly depend on objective measures, with yes/no, actionable answers exactly when pressures run high. The latter especially applies to ongoing building maintenance and security, which are greatly enhanced by integrated solutions.
Determining what building construction safety measures are required by electrical engineers is seemingly broad. But the answers are highly nuanced. It requires ongoing assessment of your exact compliance requirements, both during construction and building maintenance. That involves properly maintaining fire alarms, surveillance systems, access controls, cybersecurity, lighting, communications systems, and much more.
Modern structures also increasingly support integrated facade access systems, requiring unique placement of electrical conduits and terminals. Elevators, HVAC systems, and other devices further contribute to extremely high electrical loads. All electrical functions must work in concert—and for added security, safety systems must often have their own independent power supplies and power backup.
What it all depends on is seamless integration. A well-interconnected electrical system begins with (A) proper site planning and (B) quickly and effectively conveying those plans. With accurate, crystal-clear site printed layouts, electrical contractors achieve fully compatible and interoperable systems.
Automated site printing solutions achieve exactly this while reducing overhead, limiting delays, and enhancing company reputation.

Meeting Regulatory Compliance and Standards

What interoperability is from a technical standpoint, regulatory compliance is from a legal standpoint. Of course, what underpins the technical and legal sides of building operations is safety. Thus, most OSHA regulations contain stringent requirements for safety procedures and  technical specifications.
This applies to both active construction and finished building maintenance (OSHA 1910.26 and 1910.66, respectively). Incorporating regulatory compliance into a building's electrical design streamlines virtually all future maintenance functions and in the most practical ways. For instance:

  • Lockout/tagout procedures for "hazardous energy" equipment (see OSHA 1910.147) become much easier, and more secure, by including more energy-isolating devices.
  • Hazardous energy devices must also have a means of disconnecting, relieving (i.e., discharging), or otherwise restraining residual energy (per OSHA 1910.147[d][5][i]).
  • Energy-isolating devices should be selected for maximum compatibility with lockout devices (OSHA 1947[d][4][iii]).
  • The location of such devices helps encourage maintenance crews to properly isolate machines or equipment (OSHA 1910.147[d][3]).
These are just several common examples where effective planning is not just helpful for maintaining compliance—it's outright necessary. Failure to heed regulations for electrical systems during the design phase may result in failed inspections, costly rework, and even legal liability for lost revenue.
Deciding what building construction safety measures are required by electrical engineers is a team effort in the design phase. But once construction begins, the burden shifts heavily onto the electrical contractor's shoulders. Further, compliance standards often tie closely into technical regulations, such as:
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • ASTM International
Regardless of these and other electrical design complexities, the question is: how will you integrate your compliance documentation and certification requirements into your BIM procedures?

Best Practices for Installing Safety and Security Systems

Effective implementation of safety and security systems requires close collaboration between design engineers, construction teams, and stakeholders. Compliance experts and any private security firms you might rely on in the future should also be involved.
Also, don't neglect the "small" things, even with broad, far-reaching considerations in mind. Electrical engineers should always use cord protectors, wear appropriate PPE, and plan around adverse weather conditions. When it comes to safety, a single risk is all it takes. For the same reason, never neglect the need for rigorous testing and voltage regulation.
Because construction, security, and safety requirements vary widely between projects, it's important to combine manual operations with the most streamlined and affordable automation technology when possible. However, be sure that technology has a proven track record of improving ROI, preferably in multiple ways.
By automatically printing the exact electrical design onto a broad range of surface types (and to within 3 mm of accuracy), HP SitePrint regularly achieves up to 10x faster results. It completes weeks-long site printing tasks in mere days—and all with minimal downtime. Further, HP SitePrint reduces labor costs, workplace injuries, and the risk of costly rework or failed inspections.

Enhancing Site Security and Safety Begins With Precision

Knowing how to ensure electrical safety in building construction is only half the battle. Crews must also have the means of carrying out that knowledge safely and in the most efficient and accurate ways. The effectiveness of site safety and security in the very beginning translates directly to the well-being of future occupants and maintenance crews.
Electrical engineering firms can maximize construction and maintenance safety by exploring the latest advances in site safety and security systems. The same applies to automating the design and site layout of their electrical system designs, which must be conveyed implicitly.
HP is dedicated to improving the safety and reliability of construction functions. Our legacy of advanced printing solutions and lesser-known background in telemetry give us the edge needed to radically improve site printing for electrical teams.
Contact us using the form in the top right, and tell our dedicated site printing technicians about your project's safety and security needs.

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