Are your best practices really the best?
- When you buy a new smartphone, do you use five-year-old information to pick the right one?
- When you research healthcare options, do you leverage decade-old data to evaluate them?
- When you need information on how to fire-proof your home, do you put your trust in a 15-year-old article?
If you don’t use old information to buy a phone, learn about healthcare options, or protect your home and family, why do you use dated guidance and regulations to run your business, including installing temporary power systems and protecting your workers on the job?
You may not be aware of it, but many of the temporary power guidelines and regulations you use every day, including those from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS), could be a decade or more old. It takes a long time for innovations to become industry best practices. Once they do, they could maintain that status long after newer and better electrical products and installation procedures are available.
Your business could be missing out on opportunities to excel if you don’t view industry best practices as what they are: minimum requirements. They document the baseline minimum things you need to do to install temporary power effectively and keep your workers safe.
Health guidelines are similar. They provide baseline recommendations on what to eat, how much to exercise, and how often to visit the doctor. However, most people strive to eat better, exercise more, and get check-ups more often than the guidelines suggest.
If minimums aren’t good enough for other aspects of your life, why are they okay for your business? Isn’t it time for you to look for guidance and information on how to install temporary power and run other aspects of your business beyond minimum standards?
In this article, we’ll look at how industry electrical guidelines become dated, explain where you can go for more current information, and share case studies that reveal the benefits of using the latest information, processes, procedures, and equipment in running your business.
Case study: Monique manages a business that does temporary electrical installations at clubs, concert venues, and event spaces. She is a stickler for safety, always ensuring that her workers follow OSHA and NEIS guidelines to the letter.
However, as she started supplying lighting and sound at more outdoor venues, she became concerned that the standards she was using simply weren’t good enough to keep workers and concert attendees safe. She was worried that the bulky solutions she was using to protect wiring could cause trips and falls. She also didn’t think the standard weatherproofing she was using, especially at a damp riverside concert venue, was adequate.
Monique shared her concerns with her electrical equipment supplier. They were able to recommend protective devices developed within the last year that not only met current codes but also significantly exceeded them.
This change benefited Monique in three key ways:
- She was able to market her firm as the safest and most innovative option in her marketplace, not just the most cost-effective. It was a relief to not always have to join the race to the bottom in terms of price but to also be able to market her firm as a leader in safety and forward thinking. This earned her a lot of new business in her progressive community.
- Monique’s investment in safety and innovation came at a cost, but it also allowed her to lower her insurance rates. A quick consultation with her agent helped her find savings based on her commitment to risk reduction.
- This change helped Monique feel peace of mind. She’s able to sleep better at night knowing that she’s doing all she can to protect her employees and the people who frequent her concert venues.
Why industry standards are dated
Many organizations and agencies create and publish industry standards and guidelines. The procedures they follow to develop them may differ in the details, but most follow a similar process.
One example of an organization that develops industry standards is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (often referred to as the IEEE or I-triple-E). It is an association for technical professionals that has more than 400,000 members around the world. Its goal is to share knowledge and best practices about electrical and electronic engineering, telecommunications, computer engineering, and other similar fields.
IEEE is also one of the leading standards-development organizations in the world. It currently has more than 900 active standards and over 500 under development.
It follows a diligent six-step process to create and maintain standards.
- Step 1: Initiate the project. A sponsor (company, organization, or government agency) submits an idea to develop a new industry standard or guideline. A group within the IEEE meets and agrees to take on the project.
- Step 2: Mobilize a work group. IEEE puts together a team of experts to guide development and do hands-on work.
- Step 3: Draft the standards. The work group follows an iterative process to outline, write, and refine a document.
- Step 4: Ballot the standards. People who have a vested interest in new guidelines or standards are asked to approve them. They do this through a well-defined voting process.
- Step 5: Gain final approval. Once a new standard or set of guidelines is approved by the voters, it gets a final review by a special IEEE committee. The standards are refined, published, and released by the sponsor.
- Step 6: Maintain the standards. After the standards or guidelines are published, IEEE stays involved in case there are errors that need to be corrected.
IEEE estimates that it can take up to four years to create and publish new standards and guidelines. The organization allows them to remain on the books for up to 10 years before they must be removed and reissued. That means a new electrical guideline or standard could be based on four-year-old ideas and an existing one could include information that is 10 or more years old.
Organizations like IEEE follow rigorous and time-consuming processes to develop guidelines. This is necessary because they’re to keep people safe, and shortcuts could lead to accidents, injuries, and even death. However, they shouldn’t be the only resources you use to determine how you install temporary power equipment on job sites.
Case study: Mark operates a mine in Alaska. One day, he was thinking about his long history in the business. He realized that a lot had changed in the ways mines are operated, including computerized design and record-keeping, new types of equipment, innovative procedures, and more efficient ways of transporting the end product. However, one thing hadn’t changed much at his mining operation: how temporary power was distributed and delivered. He’d maintained a system that passed code — barely — for a long time.
Mark attended a mining conference and visited a booth from a vendor that supplied temporary power equipment. He was surprised by how out of date his equipment had become. The vendor introduced him to solutions that were far more flexible and safer than the older components he had been using.
The vendor explained that Mark could justify the expense of purchasing new electrical components because they were far more energy efficient, took less time to set up, and could reduce his insurance rates.
Mark made the investment and it paid for itself within six months. He actually feels disappointed that he didn’t explore such options sooner.
What you can do
Start by acknowledging that standards and guidelines are minimum requirements to get the job done and keep employees safe. Move beyond that and make it a point to stay up to date on the latest innovations in the temporary power industry. You can do this by:
- Following standard development organizations like IEEE and reading their affiliated publications (the IEEE Spectrum is a good example) to stay abreast of pending guidelines updates and product and procedure innovations.
- Watch the news sites of industry governing agencies like OSHA to find out what they’re working on and new standards that could impact your business.
- Regularly meet with an experienced temporary power equipment supplier to learn about the newest inventory items they have available, along with customized equipment that could help you work safer and more effectively.
- Follow blogs that supply the latest information about temporary power equipment and delivery methods.
- Continue your education to stay current with the latest industry best practices. This article includes a listing of available options.
- Regularly read industry publications and attend conferences. They’re designed to provide the latest information about industry trends. Check out this listing.
Case study: Jack’s contracting business prides itself on safety. He’s run it by the book for decades.
A national competitor moved into his territory. They promoted themselves as a more efficient alternative. They claimed that they were more responsive and cost-effective.
The reason they could do this is because they used more modern and flexible equipment and procedures during the construction process. The temporary power systems they used took less than half the time to set up and take down compared to Jack’s older equipment. It also provided greater flexibility on the job and cut energy costs significantly.
Jack was forced to scramble to catch up to the new competition. He consulted with an electrical supply firm that recommended new systems that allowed him to not only keep pace with his new competitor but actually beat them at their game.
His only regret? He’d spent so many years focused on minimum safety requirements that he missed opportunities to grow his business.