Arc flash studies, also known as arc flash assessments, analyze an electrical power system to determine the potential hazards of arc flash incidents. A sudden and dangerous release of energy can occur when an electrical fault or short circuit causes an electrical arc. This can release extremely high temperatures, pressure, and sound waves, which can cause severe damage and injury to your people, equipment, and facilities.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Association (OSHA), arc flash burns are among the top three most common hazards when working with energized electrical equipment. Injuries caused by an arc flash include skin burns, respiratory issues, hearing loss, and eye damage.
Because arc flashes often occur from minor oversights, an ideal arc flash hazard assessment should consider a number of risk factors that might not be immediately obvious to safety managers, facility supervisors, and employees.
- The presence of dust and condensation within or on an electrical asset
- Accidental contact with an asset due to poor training or lack of signage
- The mishandling of tools resulted in conductive items being left near live assets
- The presence of condensation within electrical assets
- Electrical asset corrosion and faulty installation
The importance of an arc flash study
An arc flash study typically involves gathering information about the electrical power system, such as the layout, components, protective devices, and the types of work your employees will perform on the system.
This data gathered from your facility is used to calculate the incident energy, arc flash boundaries, and other parameters to determine the level of personal protective equipment (PPE) required for your employees working on or near the system.
The summary of the findings, recommendations for minimizing the risks of arc flash incidents, and a list of the PPE required for your team to work safely are documented in the arc flash study report. Your facility owners, engineers, electricians, and other professionals should utilize this report to ensure that their electrical systems are designed, installed, and maintained properly to minimize the risks of arc flash incidents and protect workers from harm.
When is an arc flash study required?
An arc flash study should be performed when working with electrical equipment or systems, particularly those operating at 50 volts or higher. This is a comprehensive electrical system evaluation to determine the potential for arc flash incidents. It is also known as an arc flash hazard analysis.
Why is an arc flash required?
The primary reason to get an arc flash study is to assess your risk of arc flashes and to determine the appropriate safety measures and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to protect your employees in the event of an arc flash. An arc flash study involves analyzing the electrical system to identify potential arc flash hazards and then developing a plan to mitigate those hazards.
Organizations like National Electric Code (NEC), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and OSHA all have safety regulations and standards for identifying the electrical system’s hazards and implementing appropriate safety measures, including completing an arc flash assessment and appropriately labeling your equipment.
What are the phases of an arc flash study?
An arc flash study is comprised of the following six phases:
1. Data collection
The first phase involves gathering information about the electrical system, such as the types and ratings of the equipment, the available fault currents, and the protective devices in place. Engineering drawings, equipment manuals, and site visits are ideal for collecting the necessary information.
Once you collect your data, it’s time to crunch it. Your analysis should include calculations of available fault currents, arc flash energy levels, and incident energy. The results are typically presented as arc flash hazard labels and reports.
Once the analysis is complete, it’s time to place your arc flash hazard labels are prepared and placed on the equipment. These labels provide essential information to your employees about the potential hazards and the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for working on or near the equipment.
This phase involves implementing measures to reduce arc flash hazards, such as adding protective devices or modifying the equipment design. The goal is to reduce the arc flash energy levels to a safe level and minimize the risk to your team.
Your workers must be properly prepared to work on or near electrical equipment. OSHA requires regular training and re-training every 3 years, as it is essential to ensure that your employees know the risks and how to work safely.
Regular maintenance of the electrical equipment is critical to ensure that the protective devices are functioning correctly and to minimize arc flash hazards. This phase involves implementing a maintenance program and following it to ensure the safe operation of the electrical system.
Arc flash methodologies
Arc flash methodologies are used to assess the risk of electrical arc flashes in industrial and commercial settings. An arc flash can be extremely dangerous, resulting in serious injuries, fatalities, and considerable damage to equipment and property. The goal is to prevent such incidents by identifying potential risks and implementing appropriate safety measures.
Here are the two most common methodologies used for arc flash analysis:
1. Incident energy analysis
Calculates the energy released during an arc flash and determines the PPE required to protect works from injury. It is defined by NFPA 70E and IEEE 1584-2018.
2. Arc Flash PPE category method
Estimates the risk by evaluating the maximum available fault currents and clearing times of overcurrent protective devices like breakers and fuses through tables. This allows you to estimate PPE required while working on/around energized electrical equipment. This method requires you to know the available fault current and clearing times of your over-current protective devices and then allows you to have a worst-case estimate of the PPE required.
Take your first step toward a safer facility
Contact SEAM Group today to schedule an arc flash study for your organization. Our team of experts will work with you to assess your electrical system and provide comprehensive recommendations to improve safety. By investing in an arc flash study, you’re protecting your employees and your business. Take the first step toward safety and schedule your arc flash study today.