As a professional in the field, your level of knowledge regarding arc flash safety is critical. This common electrical problem can cause severe damage to both people and energized assets. Fortunately, protection from arc flash incidents is both possible and straightforward with the right approach. If you want true arc protection, explore this guide to learn the details of creating an effective arc flash safety strategy, and learn about the 5 essential steps to implementing a successful program.
What Is Arc Flash and Why Is It Dangerous?
Arc flash occurs whenever a massive blast of electrical current fails to travel in the desired direction. If electrical connections short out, a burst of current can leave its proper path and travel in unintended directions. The resulting arc flash is a burst of heat, light, and energy that can impact people, other electrical components, or nearby surroundings.
Many factors can cause arc flash, including:
- Interaction with an energized asset
- Condensation or corrosion inside the equipment
- Airborne dust
- Mistakes by untrained personnel
- Improperly installed equipment
Because arc flash is essentially untamed electricity, it can be extremely dangerous. The heat can reach upward of 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning it can melt metal and start fires. Arc flash also has a blast pressure of more than 2,000 pounds per square foot, so it can create a concussive force that pushes debris rapidly outwards.
Arc flash can injure or kill nearby people, destroy electrical equipment, and damage other parts of the building.
Benefits of Arc Flash Mitigation Programs
If you want to avoid these disastrous consequences, creating a defined arc flash safety program is essential. Arc flash programs are workplace guidelines that reduce the risk of arc flashes.
They can consist of many different responsibilities, including:
- Implementing better workplace practices
- Installing protective barricades around electrical equipment
- Training employees on how to use electrical equipment
- Providing employees with new tools or gear
The right training can prevent many arc flash issues, lowering your chance of workplace safety issues. Arc flash programs also protect in the unlikely event of a flash. Proper safety gear and protection boundaries limit the likelihood of severe damage if an arc flash occurs.
How to Start an Arc Flash Safety Program
Every good arc flash mitigation project starts by thoroughly assessing your workplace. An experienced risk engineer identifies all potential activities and locations where arc flash can occur.
Next, review all industry codes and standards on the subject. Most businesses must review National Electrical Code (NEC) regulations, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
Once you have the basics, you can craft a program that suits your workplace needs. Every good arc flash safety program will include these 5 essential safety measures.
Step 1: Ensure All Workers Have Proper Training
Anyone working with electrical equipment needs safety training to avoid arc flashes. This includes properly de-energizing equipment before working on it and identifying behaviors that could cause an arc flash.
Step 2: Install Arc Flash Mitigation Systems
Modern technology makes it a lot easier to avoid arc flashes. Some systems can monitor equipment, detect the start of a flash, and trip the breaker before the full force of the flash is released. Even if you can’t afford high-end sensor equipment, you can still select breaker settings that instantly open a breaker whenever overcurrent events occur.
Step 3: Get the Right Protective Equipment
The proper gear can make a massive difference in outcomes. Simple upgrades like switching to insulated tools can keep many arc flashes from happening. You can also equip your workers with flame-resistant clothing, rubber voltage gloves, and arc-rated face shields to protect them from mishaps.
Step 4: Create an Arc Flash Protection Boundary
Since arc flashes are much more severe near the source of the flash, OSHA recommends calculating a boundary for each piece of equipment. Once you use OSHA standards to find the boundary, firmly mark it and ensure only qualified and adequately protected workers can enter the space.
Step 5: Inspect All Electrical Equipment Regularly
A lot of arc flashes happen due to poor maintenance. Creating a schedule to check equipment and promptly repair problems can reduce the risk of arc flashes.
Ultimately, a comprehensive arc flash policy is essential to workplace safety. By setting up a few basic arc flash safety precautions, you can avoid significant problems later.
Expert Arc Flash Mitigation Strategies from SEAM Group
Implementing an arc flash mitigation program is essential for protecting your facility and workers from arc flash hazards. The program must identify flash hazards, provide proper personal protective equipment, training in arc flash safety, and utilize proper engineering solutions.
SEAM Group provides solutions to help you start your arc flash mitigation program. Our knowledgeable staff can assess your facility and develop a customized arc flash mitigation plan that meets OSHA and NFPA 70E safety standards.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your workers from arc flash hazards.