Using a ground power unit (GPU) safely
When an aircraft is parked and needs power to run its electrical systems, a ground power unit (GPU) is connected to it via cables that run from the power source to the ground power unit (GPU), and from the ground power unit (GPU) to the external power receptacle of the aircraft. We will discuss the safety aspects of using a ground power unit (GPU) in this blog post.
First and foremost is proper physical handling and electrical setup of any ground power unit (GPU) that is used. This ensures the safety of personnel, the aircraft, and the unit itself. Proper physical handling includes not inserting any objects into the plugs and openings of the unit and using it in the appropriate environment and orientation. Electrically, it is important that a qualified electrician review and set up the proper electrical connection to power the ground power unit (GPU), if it is powered from the mains.
A critical component of any ground power unit is its power cables. They are designed to withstand significant wear and tear and can be exposed to frequent dragging, rolling, and unrolling, which can cause them to become abrasive to the touch. This can cause skin injuries when handling the cables, so safety gloves are always recommended when handling them. The safety gloves that are used should also protect from electrical shock because wear and tear can expose the conductor element of the cable. Conductor exposure is a significant safety issue, which is not easily identifiable if ground crews do not perform a complete cable inspection at regular intervals. Therefore, it is recommended that all cabling is inspected regularly to ensure that the insulation is intact.
Another important safety element regarding cable handling on a busy ramp is the risk of the cable getting run over by another aircraft or vehicle. This risk can be reduced by:
- Using bright colors for cables. Many manufacturers are doing this, so the cables stand out when they are being used on the ramp.
- Carefully positioning the Ground Power Unit (GPU) and routing its cables to reduce risk of runover.
This covers some of the more basic safety elements of using a ground power unit (GPU). Following the steps outlined here can help reduce the risk of injuries or accidents when using ground power equipment.