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Cleaning Equipment Problems

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Commercial cleaning equipment operates in one of the harshest environments for electrical equipment. Equipment is often used while it is unsafe. For example, a backpack vacuum using a plug in extension lead had 200 mm (8 inches) of exposed base insulation (the brown, blue and green-yellow insulation) unknown to the operator. The lead was last tagged 12 months ago and was due for retest. Admittedly, the cable was not easy to see, being obscured by the backpack frame and harness; but it was obvious that the practice of visually inspecting the equipment prior to use was not being observed.

How did this happen?

The extension lead was fairly good quality, with a moulded plug, socket and cable anchors. Through constant straining, the socket cable anchor 'let go' and with further regular straining, the outer sheaf gradually crept up the cable exposing more and more coloured wire (base insulation) every day.

How can this be prevented?

By vigilant visual inspections prior to every use.

So why is commercial cleaning equipment a problem?

This class of equipment is often exposed to: -

  • Chemicals;
  • Frequent / continual winding/ unwinding of flexible leads;
  • Dragging;
  • Scuffing;
  • Abrasion by buffing flexes;
  • Jamming in doorways;
  • Stress on connectors;
  • Twisting of flexes;
  • Exacerbated twisting caused by winding up around the elbow;
  • Dragging flexes around sharp corners and protrusions;
  • Kinking;
  • Stresses and strains;
  • Rewinding the flex from the plug end towards the backpack vacuum cleaner.

And after all that, the operators seldom check the flex or appliance, often waiting for the Test Tag Technician to do it for them.

A spiral in the flex will cause it to kick-up and create tripping hazards for unsuspecting employees walking through the area. So watch for leads that look like a 'Figure of Eight' when they are rolled up - they have lots of twists in them that need to be removed.

The Solutions 

  • Implement an operator safety awareness policy;
  • Do a Visual Inspection before every use;
  • Publicise a lead management & handling programme;
  • Use a lead with its length appropriate to the task;
  • Always uncoil lead fully and lay it out removing all twists;
  • Follow recommended coiling/ uncoiling techniques;
  • Always re-roll fixed leads from the appliance end towards the plug.


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