An electrical arc could happen at any time — when no one is around, when someone is walking in proximity, or when someone is working on the equipment. The most hazardous situation is when someone is working on or near energized equipment. The equipment doors may be open, placing workers close to electrical components, conductors, and connections.
An electrical arc can form when an electrical worker makes contact between phases or from phase to ground with a conductive object such as a screwdriver, pliers, or body parts while working inside an energized electrical panel. The temperature of the arc is intense enough to produce radiation burns, which could result in long-term internal bodily damage. The explosive energy released by this electrical arc creates a pressure wave. When this wave comes into contact with a surface — which could be a person — it is called incident energy.
What is an Arc Flash Study?
An arc flash study is the evaluation of a workplace facility by an electrical safety expert to determine hazards and risks in relation to electrical systems. The on-site study results in arc flash equipment labeling, fault current and coordination analysis, recommendations for improvements and requirements for proper personal protective equipment (PPE).2
What is the Importance of an Arc Flash Study?
Organizations such as OSHA, NFPA, ASTM, and IEEE aspire to protect electrical workers from electrical hazards through training, proper equipment maintenance, proper use of tools and protective equipment, and sound engineering methods for design and analysis of electrical systems.1
NFPA 70E, Section 110.3 (A) Host Employer Responsibilities – requires that host employers of contractor or outside service personnel are responsible for notifying the contractor of the hazards they may encounter in the performance of their work. This holds the host employer / facility owner responsible for identifying the hazards a contractor may encounter on the site. Therefore, using contract maintenance and electrical workers does not reduce the need for arc flash analysis.
It is impossible to know what level of arc flash hazard risk is inherent in your power system without assessment by knowledgeable technical resources. However, it is a true statement that every industrial / commercial electrical system has some level of inherent arc flash hazard. In order to protect the safety of your employees or contract employees working on or operating your electrical equipment an arc flash assessment must be completed and the equipment appropriately labeled.2
How Can Your Company Ensure Proper Protection for Electrical Workers and be Compliant with NFPA 70E?
The following steps are how your company can provide proper protection for electrical workers, and be compliant with NFPA 70E:
- Electrical safety and arc flash training of electrical workers
- Arc Flash Assessment of electrical equipment
- Labeling of equipment with
- Nominal system voltage
- Arc flash boundary
- And at least one of the following:
- Available incident energy at working distance, or required PPE Level
- Minimum arc rating of clothing
- Site-specific level of PPE (must be equal to or greater than incident energy)
- Use of proper arc flash PPE (arc rated clothing as daily wear and higher levels available where needed) and shock protection PPE (insulated tools and rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors for all energized contacts over 50V AC or DC)
- Written Electrical Safety Program for the site, as described in Section 110.1, including auditing and reporting processes to show compliance, identify gaps and keep the program on track.2
Who to Call: How N-Sci can complete an Arc Flash Study for your company
If you think your company or organization needs to have an arc flash study conducted, please contact us using the Getting Started button at the top of this page, or call 705-949-1033. We look forward to hearing from you and keeping your employees and contractors safe!
1Lane, John. (2019). The importance of arc flash hazard analysis. Retrieved from plantengineering.com: https://www.plantengineering.com/articles/the-importance-of-arc-flash-hazard-analysis/
2e-Hazard. (2019). What is an Arc Flash Study? Retrieved from e-hazard.com: https://www.e-hazard.com/learn/risk-assessment/what-is-an-arc-flash-study.php