Arc Flash Hazards
Arc flash hazard is a dangerous condition associated with massive release of energy causing a very high high-pressure, intense light, toxic gases, flying shrapnel, high-heat (may exceed 35,000° F) capable of melting metal and devastating everything in its path. When an arc flash happens, it does so without warning and is lightning quick.
An arc flash can result in minor injuries, third degree burns, blindness, hearing loss, nerve damage, cardiac arrest, and often death. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that there were nearly 6,000 fatal electrical injuries to workers in the U.S. between 1992 and 2013 and 24,100 non-fatal electrical injuries from 2003 through 2012.
Most of these workers will not have been properly warned of the magnitude of arc flash, if at all. Although injuries are not as frequent as other job-related injuries, their severity makes the cost to human life and industry much greater. The monetary cost alone can easily exceed $1 million in medical expenses, equipment replacement, downtime, and insurance costs.
Arc Flash Analysis and Compliance with OSHA
OSHA mandates that employers identify electrical hazards, warn employees about the hazards and provide them proper protection and training related to the hazards. Compliance with OSHA is mandatory for all US companies. 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1)—Requires employers to perform a PPE hazard assessment to determine necessary PPE.
While OSHA mandates that you warn workers of the arc flash hazards, they do not mandate “how” you must do this, so in theory, each company can implement their own way to identify the hazards and protect their workers form them. In reality, however, there isn’t much choice on other ways to properly identify the flash hazards. See NFPA 130.7 Table and Full Arc Flash Protection for other options.
The definitive line in this decision becomes very clear if an accident occurs. If a person is injured or killed and the employer knew there were potential electrical hazards and either chose to do nothing about it or chose not to follow industry standards and best practices, the company is subject to a lawsuit that can exceed $10 million and individual managers can be found negligent.
What Does OSHA Look For in Arc Flash Compliance?
A facility must provide, and be able to demonstrate, a safety program with defined responsibilities.
⦁ Calculations for the degree of arc flash hazard.
⦁ Correct personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers
⦁ Electrical Safety Training for workers on the hazards of arc flash.
⦁ Appropriate tools for safe working.
⦁ Warning labels on equipment. Note that the labels are provided by the equipment owners, not the manufacturers.
⦁ Companies will be cited and fined for not complying with these standards
What Is An Arc Flash Study Or Analysis ?
An Arc Flash Study or Analysis is a calculation performed by Professional Engineer to determine the incident energy found at each location which determines the various arc flash boundaries and what personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used in approaching each boundary.
As part of the study, the engineer should also provide recommendations to reduce the incident engery / arc flash hazard category, which requires a short circuit study and a protective device coordination study.
An Arc Flash Study / Analysis should only be performed by experienced and qualified electrical engineers knowledgeable in power system engineering, IEEE 1584, NFPA 70E and arc flash studies.
When You Should Consider An Arc Flash Analysis
⦁ Arc Flash Analysis has not been performed in the past three years.
⦁ Changes have occurred to the electrical distribution system or electrical utility system.
⦁ A safety audit is required or the facilities insurance policy is up for renewal.
⦁ Modifications or expansions of the electrical distribution system are being considered.
Arc Flash Risk Assessment Study Benefits
⦁ Improve employee safety.
⦁ Improve your electrical distribution system.
⦁ Provide safety information to subcontractors.
⦁ Assist in compliance with regulations.
⦁ Provide you with documentation that may bring about reductions in workers compensation and insurance rates.