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Common Electrical Safety Issues We See as Industrial Contractors (& How to Avoid Them)

Authors: Dennis Mosher and Ryan Donovan

With tighter budgets and increasing regulation, industrial contractors are taking a closer look at everything that happens on their projects. While searching for ways to improve project performance and outcomes, remember to include crew safety in the process.

Contractors are keenly aware of potential losses from safety incidents. A serious occurrence can result in citations, fines and lawsuits, and can even affect a firm’s reputation and ability to bid.

By their very nature, industrial construction projects carry a high level of potential hazards, and it’s ultimately the responsibility of the employer to protect the safety and health of their employees. Exposure to uncontrolled electrical energy is a significant source of injury and one of the top four causes of workplace fatalities.

With the importance of worker safety in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more common electrical safety issues.

Energizing Switchgear

Energizing and de-energizing switchgear is a common source of electrical hazard. Using a comprehensive switchgear pre-energization checklist will help mitigate potential hazards. Energizing and de-energizing switchgear also carries the potential for arcing hazards (see below), and should be dealt with through standardized procedures, including a lockout/tagout (LOTO) program.

Arc Flash

Imagine an airborne burst of energy with temperatures that can reach 35,000 degrees F in a split second. Arc flashes are always a danger for industrial electrical contractors and should be high on the list of daily pre-work checks. Before working in any area, especially around switchgear, a risk assessment should be conducted. When a possible arcing hazard has been identified, crew members should follow established procedures, such as wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), using hot sticks to open cabinets and providing warning signs, floor striping and cone barricades.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

GFCIs detect ground faults and interrupt electrical current when a fault is detected, limiting the duration of shock. While a proven method of decreasing incident rates, these devices are often overlooked or used incorrectly. GFCIs should always be the first thing plugged into an outlet, followed by the extension cord or tool.

Extension Cords

Most any worksite involves a lot of electrical cabling. As each of these carries the possibility of transmitting electrical energy, it’s imperative that extension cords be inspected every time they are used. Any damaged cords should be cut in half, discarded and replaced.

On-Site Utilities

There are a lot more underground utilities than you might expect when drilling within a manufacturing plant, or any areas between buildings connected to the same grid. One of the first tasks of any project involves finding and marking these utilities. Underground surveys should be conducted by the contractor before starting work, as plans and other information supplied by project owners may be outdated.

Not Just Equipment

The human element will always be a factor in job site safety. As crew members get more familiar with their job requirements, it becomes easier to get caught up in the process. This may lead to less attention paid to what’s going on around them and overlooked safety concerns.

Keeping crew members safe on the job is never one and done. It requires a genuine commitment at every level of the firm, from the top down. Job safety begins with initial training of new hires and continues with (at least) annual refreshers and pre-project assessments along with daily safety checklists. Establishing and following job-specific safety procedures will help keep safety top of mind for every member of your crew.

At the end of the day, what’s good for crew members is also good for industrial electrical contractors and their customers. Firms that care for their people will find that caring carrying over into the quality of the work they do.

Our best advice for electrical safety? Instill in all your crew members the idea that “everything is live—protect yourself accordingly.”

Have a challenging industrial electrical project on your shortlist? Talk with the experts at Lee Contracting about the benefits of doing business with a single-source industrial electrical contractor.

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Overcoming Volatility in Industrial Contracting Supply Chains

Shutdowns. Layoffs. Plant closures. Projects on-hold. And now, shortage-driven price inflation. The global pandemic has thrown the entire world into chaos.

In the industrial contracting space, the most noticeable problem in recent months has been price and supply volatility in materials. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 84% of contractors face at least one material shortage. And for 46% of industrial contractors, material shortages are having a high impact on projects.

A Perfect Storm

When the pandemic took hold in 2020, shutdowns across the board brought the nation, the economy and our industry to a near standstill. Almost overnight, many industrial contracting projects were put on hold, although work did continue in regions of the country where construction was considered an essential industry. Those projects that did move forward faced extended lead times and often severe restrictions on how work was performed.

From the start, manufacturers began shutting down operations. This quickly led to shortages of materials for construction. The effects were highlighted in steel production, as mills were closed around the world.

With the easing of restrictions, buyers have seen the basic law of supply and demand showcased, in that as demand for materials exceeds supply, prices rise accordingly. In industrial construction, demand is still running ahead of supply, fueled by owners who are scrambling to restart projects that had been put on hold. Additionally, companies are also moving rapidly to get new projects underway.

Even with the challenges, the construction industry has been somewhat less affected than many others. Many industrial contractors are experiencing high workloads, both in backlogged work from 2020 and projects whose timelines have been accelerated.

A New Normal?

The short-term situation has seen major changes in the way projects unfold, especially in the bidding process. Because of pricing volatility, the old norm of 30-60-90 day quotes has been replaced by quoted prices that are now only good until the end of the day due to the rapidity of price changes. The effects are felt on both the owner and contractor side, introducing a level of uncertainty not seen before in heavy industrial construction. 

Project owners and industrial contractors don’t expect the situation to ease for at least another year. And even as supplies slowly become more available, labor shortages continue to delay projects. For example, it’s not unusual for loaded trucks to sit for weeks before delivery, due to a lack of drivers. At least in the short term, price and supply volatility are expected to be the norm.

The appearance of the Delta variant has once again put the nation on edge. Its effects on the reopening of the U.S. economy are, of course, currently unknown. But even if the variant should have a significant impact, the effects are not expected to be as severe as those of the original pandemic, because industrial contractors and suppliers have learned how to operate effectively under adverse conditions.

A Light in the Tunnel

As industrial contractors closely monitor the ever-changing construction landscape, supply challenges are being addressed by aggressive increases in materials inventories. Leading firms with solid relationships with suppliers and strong buying power are maintaining higher inventory levels and working with stakeholders to keep them up to date on supply and price issues.

This is a boon for project owners, who can benefit from partners that have seen the writing on the wall and made significant inventory investments. Contractors who are unable or unwilling to risk increasing their materials inventory will likely be less competitive going forward.

In addition to our massive in-house inventory, Lee Contracting has a dedicated team of buyers scouring the world for the best combinations of price and supply, ensuring we have the inventory available now to complete your project without delay. Contact us today to discuss the benefits to your next project.

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What it Takes to Be an Electrician

Have you ever considered a career as an electrician? Let’s take a closer look into frequently asked questions to uncover what it takes to be an electrician at Lee.

  1. What schooling is required to become an electrician? After you earn a high school diploma, or equivalent, Lee welcomes applicants to apply for one of our electrical apprentice openings. Lee requires all apprentices attend a state-sponsored electrical apprenticeship program, which combines extensive on-the-job training and related classroom instruction. After four years, and 8,000 hours working under a master electrician as an apprentice, you are then eligible to take the journeyman test. Once you pass the test, many electricians will spend the duration of their career as a journeyman, or they work to become a master electrician. As a journeyman, you must work under a master electrician for two years and have 4,000 hours on the job before you are eligible to take the master electrician exam.
  2. What certifications are required? Anyone on an electrical crew in Michigan must have an apprentice, journeyman or master electrical license from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
  3. What types of projects do industrial electricians work on? You can gain a lot of experience as an industrial electrician. Projects vary depending on the industry. You may find yourself working in automotive, steel processing, battery manufacturing, testing, food and beverage, distribution, research and development, commercial build and more.
  4. What are the different types of industrial electrician jobs at Lee? There are many different positions available for those interested in industrial electrical work. Those positions include shop assistant, shop manager, purchaser, department manager, estimator, apprentice electrician, journeyman electrician, foreman, senior foreman and master electrician.
  5. How can electricians stay safe on the job? Lee provides all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including arc suits and clothing. All electricians at Lee are required to have NFPA 70E training to help avoid workplace injuries, as well as regular trainings provided by Lee’s in-house safety team.
  6. What is it like working as an electrician at Lee? Most of the electrical work performed by Lee is considered heavy industrial. Our electricians might find themselves disconnecting and reconnecting electrical components for a press move, upgrading power to a whole operation, performing a complete machine rewire and more! Additionally, Lee is a learning environment – all apprentices are enrolled in state electrical apprenticeship programs and work closely with experienced journeyman and master electricians. All employees have an opportunity for advancement within the company.

Interested in a career at Lee?  Learn more about what it’s like to work at Lee and view our current job openings here.

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The Importance of Preventative Maintenance for HVAC and Air Compressors

Did you know that performing regular preventative maintenance on your HVAC systems and air compressors can save you money? Performing routine maintenance on your equipment allows a service technician to notice any unusual wear and tear, monitor the components on a regular basis and to make recommendations for future replacement or upgrades based on your usage. This allows you to make the necessary minor repairs right away, or to plan for a larger repair or replacement in the future.

VFD upgrades on compressed air and HVAC equipment.

  • Controlled starting current
  • Reduced power line disturbances
  • Lower power demand on start
  • Controlled acceleration
  • Adjustable operating speed
  • Adjustable torque limit
  • Controlled stopping
  • Energy savings

HVAC Replacement Benefits

  • Improved comfort and air quality
  • Energy cost savings on average of 8.3%
  • Up to 30% cost savings in utility cost in 3-5 years
  • Improved health benefits
  • Lower environmental impact
  • Replace aging or obsolete equipment
  • New equipment warranties

HVAC Maintenance Benefits

  • Changing filters regularly can save on average up to 10% of operating costs and put less strain on the HVAC components, helping them last longer
  • Regular maintenance performed by a qualified technician can save up to 40% in overall operating cost
  • Improved system efficiency up to 20% by properly sealing the system’s ductwork
  • Performing maintenance can assist with identifying small repairs before they become large costly repairs

Don’t wait any longer to schedule preventative maintenance for your equipment. Doing could save you from an untimely larger repair bill.

Many preventative maintenance services or equipment may qualify for utility rebates.

Call us today for a free quote: 888-833-8776.

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Your Full-Service Industrial Electrical Experts

When it’s time to add a generator or build out a new department, you want a seasoned, full-service electrical contractor who can handle the project from start to finish. Lee Industrial Contracting is eager to help you define the scope of your electrical work and take care of every detail until you sign off on the final phase of the job.

For over 30 years, Lee has led the industry in safe, efficient, turn-key electrical solutions. Each time we begin a project, we recommit to the essential framework that guides our business: to provide our clients with the finest people, materials and equipment available.

In-House Resources

Industrial electrical contractors often depend on numerous outside resources, which means time lost to scheduling and coordination. From in-house skilled trades to vehicle fleets and specialized equipment, Lee keeps an extensive supply of resources all under one roof. You can count on the latest, state-of-the-art equipment and practices, and you won’t be left waiting for a part or a sub-contractor to arrive.

Services

As leading industrial contractors for over three decades, Lee enjoys working across industries and applications to offer a wide range of electrical services. Our master electricians can handle whatever scope of service you require, from regular plant maintenance to major renovations and installations. Not all industrial electrical contractors offer our range of new installs, upgrades and emergency services. Our commercial and industrial capabilities include:

  • Primary power – design and installation
  • Power upgrades – partial or whole operation
  • Backup power – standby generators, lighting, UPS systems
  • Control wiring – upgrades to complete machine rewires
  • Emergency generator repairs – 24 hours, 365 days
  • Motor controls and transformers – design and installation
  • Power quality monitoring – identify and repair
  • Infrared Imaging – determine predictive maintenance

Whatever your industry, our versatile teams are ready to take care of your unique project parameters. 

Dedicated Support 

Right from the start, our teams shift into high gear to get your project off the ground swiftly. We provide you with a full-time, dedicated project manager to coordinate on-site activities and streamline communication.

Industrial electrical contractors don’t always slow down long enough to listen. We train our project managers to listen. Your vision is essential in helping us define a successful schedule and budget plan. You can trust your dedicated manager to monitor efficiency and budget adherence throughout your project.

Safety

We know you count on your electrical contractor to adhere to the highest safety standards. Safety isn’t just a part of our business at Lee Industrial; it permeates every aspect of our work. Our people know we value their safety. We begin training our employees on safe equipment operation from their first day on the job. Our managers ensure every worker and supervisor understands the safety risks specific to your job or location.

Industrial electrical contractors must stay aware of ever-changing safety standards. Our electricians regularly monitor code changes and OSHA regulations to keep your people and ours safe. In addition, Lee’s preventative maintenance program minimizes safety-related downtime, keeping your job moving smoothly and on schedule.

Employee Training

Lee’s new hires understand our high standards for safety and quality workmanship. Our apprentices work directly with our master electricians and journeymen to hone their skills. At the same time, they gain additional theoretical and technical knowledge from Michigan State University’s electrical apprenticeship program. We invest in our employees because we know they are the face of our commitment to excellence on every job we complete.

Industrial electrical contractors have the challenge of keeping many balls in the air. Lee Industrial Contracting understands your bottom line depends on continuity, and we pride ourselves on keeping your operation moving forward. Our 24-hour availability and extensive on-site resources enable us to mobilize quickly and guarantee minimal downtime. We are eager to exceed your expectations. When you think of cutting-edge electrical contractors we hope you think of Lee Industrial Contracting, your source for efficient, affordable, reliable electrical work.

Start Your Project Today

Compare foundations for steel buildings today with our team at Lee Industrial Contracting. Schedule a conversation with our professional team today to discuss your steel structure needs, your local area and your foundation preference. We offer state-of-the-art solutions that ensure workplace safety and long-lasting support.

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Concrete Foundation Selection and Construction Process

A new foundation offers you the durable base necessary to create a new facility or improve your existing building. Explore your options and compare the Lee Industrial Contracting process with the competition to find out why we’re a leader in foundation engineering and construction. Find out why Lee is your go-to building foundation construction team.

How To Choose the Right Foundation Installation Team

You need a foundation installation team you can rely on. Work with an industrial contracting company that offers these key services:

A compromised foundation puts your entire facility at risk, so be sure to choose a service provider you can trust. Whether you’re laying a foundation for a new facility or renovating your existing building to accommodate new equipment, find out how you can benefit from choosing Lee Industrial Contracting.

Benefits of Our Services

Our foundation installation team works around the clock to reduce downtime and restore full functionality to your facility. Our expert engineers assess the ideal foundation option and focus on safety, efficiency and a final product with measurable results.

We assess your foundation project and focus on earth retention, long-lasting materials and a safe working process. Enjoy a foundation with up to a 60-foot pit dug, poured, supported and finished by our state-of-the-art equipment and safe construction process.

We work with you to schedule a foundation process that results in minimal downtime and prevents injuries. Our safety training ensures that our team and your employees remain protected and understand how to safely operate around a foundation construction site.

As an experienced industrial contractor, we provide you with controlled project costs to better estimate the cost of your foundation project. You won’t be surprised by an unexpected bill that affects your working capital, but our account managers will work with you to create a budget you can rely on.

Work With Lee Industrial Contracting

Our foundation installation process keeps your company moving forward. Contact us today to learn why Lee Industrial Contracting is a leading foundation installer for your industry. Invest in the finest people and equipment in the industry for lasting results that are tailored to your specific manufacturing and processing needs. Compete in your industry and prevent foundation issues when you install state-of-the-art equipment or invest in a new facility for your company.

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Industrial Electrical Installation Services

At Lee Industrial Contracting, we offer full-service solutions for your electrical installation needs. Whether you’re expanding your facility to accommodate new equipment or building an entirely new plant, our experienced electrical team has you covered. Learn more about the benefits of choosing our team and how we can accommodate a range of electrical projects at any scale.

Why Hire an Electrical Contractor?

Whether you’re adding a single machine or doubling the size of your facility, working with a specialized team of contractors can keep your manufacturing process moving forward at full efficiency. A brand-new line or building can mean all the difference in a demanding industry and working with experienced electricians reduces the downtime of your facility.

Our Services

As leaders in industrial electrical installation, we offer a wide range of services for your facility. Here are just a few projects we handle, from start to finish:

  • Standby generators
  • Backup lighting
  • Primary power design and installation
  • Control wiring and rewiring services
  • Motor controls and transformers design and installation
  • Power quality monitoring
  • Infrared imaging
  • Industrial lighting

Our team of engineers works with you to determine the electrical needs of your new facility or remodeled shop floor. We combine repair services with our electrical installation projects for full-service assistance to reduce downtime and cut inefficiencies.

Our projects include work in a variety of industries, including heavy industry, energy, environmental, automotive and aerospace. Our team inspects, repairs and installs machinery or equipment electrical components to keep your manufacturing process ahead of the competition.

Safety and Certifications

At Lee Industrial Contracting, we’re committed to providing safe leadership, site inspections and continued communication to prevent accidents on the job. We’ll work with you and your employees to make sure everyone in the building understands the scope of electrical work, how it may affect them and how to keep safe.

Our electricians continuously stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and code changes. Our apprentices work hand-in-hand with our journeyman and master electricians, while also participating in the Michigan State University electrical apprenticeship school program. Just like your employees continue to hone their skills, we work to master the latest techniques that can increase the safety and efficiency of your industrial electrical system.

Supplies, Equipment and Expertise

Our team of talented master electricians can provide rapid installation and service. We keep an extensive supply of materials and equipment which accelerates service for our customers. This allows us to decrease downtime typically required when waiting for specialty parts to be ordered.

Our state-of-the-art generators, fork trucks, fleet vehicles, die carts and other equipment allows us to handle electrical and mechanical installation processes safely and efficiently.

Enjoy Turn-Key Solutions From Lee Industrial Contracting

Take advantage of our efficient, affordable and reliable industrial electrical services by contacting us. We are ready to discuss your next installation project, reduce turnaround time and upgrade your facility without losing out on productivity.

Call (888) 833-8776 to receive your free quote today.

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Electrical Safety

Electrical safety should be a continuing priority for every employee. Worksites are full of electrical safety hazards that must be observed. Basic ‘lockout/tagout’ and ‘test before touch’ procedures apply to every job. As industrial manufacturing plants get busier, it seems that open/free space always decreases. Per OSHA statistics, electrocutions account for 8.3% of construction deaths and control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout) was the 5th most frequently cited OSHA standard in 2017. Employers and workers alike must work together to improve safe work practices and decrease the number of injuries and deaths caused by electrical accidents.

Free space in front of electrical equipment not only makes it easier to work, but it is also required. These requirements become a safety hazard when they are infringed upon by stored equipment and/or manufacturing materials. This space is designed to keep workers safe while completing electrical maintenance or upgrades. Care should be taken to protect yourself when working in these areas.

Before starting work, establishing an electrical shutdown plan or isolating the equipment should be the first topic of discussion. Per OSHA guidelines, electrical equipment must be de-energized before work is performed. With the customer having ample time to schedule the shutdown, work can be performed without major interruption to their facility. Limited approach boundaries and caution tape must also be set up per the National Fire Protection Association. The boundaries must be maintained while work is being performed.

Performing electrical work in unsafe conditions is never permitted. Remember that electrical hazards can be avoided if these policies & Electrical Safetyprocedures, among other policies, are followed.

Lee’s training programs keep our electricians safe on every job. To learn more about our electrical team, visit our website. Safety of our personnel and customers is always our top priority.

Call us today to request a free quote on your next industrial electrical project, 888.833.8776.

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Who are Industrial Electricians?

Industrial electricians are trained personnel who test, troubleshoot, install and repair electrical components and systems in an industrial plant or worksite. Electricians also need to read and interpret blueprints and must remain current on electrical code specifications for the area.

 

Lee Contracting has a full staff of industrial electricians who install and troubleshoot the electrical systems for our customers. Our electrical staff is complete with master electricians who can provide services ranging from routine plant maintenance all the way up to major electrical renovations. Our industry-leading modern equipment keeps our employees on the job instead of in the repair shop. Our key advantage is keeping a large electrical supply in-house for a quicker job turnaround and emergency service response.

 

Our highly-skilled staff of electricians are trained in:

  • Installation of standby generators: backup lighting panels, UPS systems, and whole service backup power
  • Emergency generator services: 24/7, 365 days a year
  • Design and installation of primary power
  • 24/7, 365 days a year emergency repair to get your shop back up and running, minimizing your downtime
  • Control wiring specialist: from wiring upgrades to complete machine rewire
  • Complete industrial installation: electrical design, motor controls and transformers
  • Power quality monitoring: monitoring equipment to help determine and repair power quality issues.
  • Infrared imaging: determine predictive maintenance
  • Complete commercial and industrial lighting installation

 

Learn more about our electrical department by visiting our website.

Or call us today to request a free quote on your next industrial electrical project, 888.833.8776.

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Reasons to Become an Electrician

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of electricians is projected to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026. Increases in construction spending and growing demand for alternative energy sources will drive demand for electricians. Many people choose to become an electrician because of the training, the pay and the benefits.

 

Apprenticeship Program

The path to becoming an electrician is through an apprenticeship program. After graduating high school or obtaining a GED, the apprenticeship program will have you working on actual job sites while learning the skills needed to become an electrician. Most times, the contractor your work for will pay for the apprenticeship program, eliminating thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

 

Great Pay

In the state of Michigan, the mean annual wage for electricians in 2016 was $56,600. Of course, this number can be increased with specialized training. After beginning your career as an electrician, promotions can include electrical engineer, cost estimator, electrical design engineer, and even master electrician. Master electricians can make $100,000 or more per year.

 

Working as an electrician is a great career choice. At Lee Industrial Contracting, we have a growing electrical department complete with master electricians who can provide services ranging from routine plant maintenance all the way up to major electrical renovations. We currently have several job openings in our Electrical Department. Check out our careers page, and apply today to join our growing electrical department.