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Arc Flash Studies: Why are they so Important?

When an accidental arc fault or short circuit occurs between live parts, the sudden discharge of energy leads to an arc flash. This sudden release in the form of heat and light, akin to an electrical explosion, generating a concussive pressure wave capable of propelling shrapnel. It is quantified in calories per square centimeter (Cal/cm2), also known as incident energy. An arc flash study helps keep employees safe and reduces risk.

Why are Arc Flash Studies Required?

Taking a deep dive into your facility’s power system, the goal of an arc flash study is to determine energy levels at specific electrical devices that could potentially put your workers at risk. It’s not just about spotting hazards; it’s about making sure your facility has the right equipment and that your electrical system is up to code. There are specific requirements from OSHA and IEEE in addition to NFPA 70E and NFPA 70 which mandate that an arc flash hazard analysis be performed at regular intervals.

What exactly goes into an Arc Flash study? It begins with collecting data and calculating loads along with analyzing details such as short circuit currents and the time it takes for overcurrent devices to kick in. This data helps determine how much energy is flowing in your electrical system. OSHA states it’s essential for employers to keep their workers safe from workplace hazards. When it comes to electrical systems, we’re referring to risks like electrical shock and arc flash. Anytime your team’s work on live equipment, the risks are front and center.

What is Required for an Arc Flash Analysis?

Performing arc flash studies requires detailed information, although various software options are available for conducting these assessments. The foremost requirement is an accurate and comprehensive depiction of the electrical system under analysis. While much of this data can typically be sourced from existing as-built one-line documentation, it’s essential to verify conductor lengths in the field to ensure the study accurately reflects the actual conditions. In instances where existing documentation is unavailable or incomplete, a thorough field survey of the installation becomes imperative. The following information is crucial for building an accurate model:

  • Utility information
  • Operating voltage
  • Available fault current
  • Utility protective equipment at the point of service
  • Paralleled Source information, including multiple services, generators, or other emergency power systems.
  • Electrical equipment information
  • Manufacturer
  • Types
  • Sizes
  • Time/current settings
  • Short-circuit interrupting rating
  • Cable/conductor type, size, and lengths
  • Motors connected to the system
  • Horsepower rating
  • NEMA configuration
  • Transformer
  • Rating
  • Impedance values
  • Tap settings

Now, let’s talk NFPA 70E – it’s essential the bible of electrical safety in the workplace. It states that employers need to have a solid electrical safety program in place. That means doing regular arc flash risk assessments, usually every five years. Plus, any equipment that’s likely to be serviced while it’s still powered up needs to be specifically labeled.

How is an Arc Flash Analysis Performed?

While there are a few different methods to choose from, the Standard Bracketing Method is the most common and budget-friendly. It helps us figure out what kind of equipment your employees need based on criteria like fault current and device type. Then there’s the Detailed ONE LINE Method, which gives us a look at your electrical setup – which is a more expensive but more comprehensive analysis. And finally, there’s the Calculate to the NFPA 70E Tables Method, which is a bit more conservative however it might require more protective equipment.

No matter which method you choose, the goal is always the same: maintaining a safe working environment and ensuring you’re up to code. That means not just performing the analysis but also following with proper training, labeling equipment, and putting in place any extra safety measures your facility may need.

The Three Key Factors in Making Electrical Safety a Success Are:

  • Understanding the energy available in your power system for both shock and arc flash.
  • Having the proper PPE available and making its use a standard practice / requirement.
  • Once hazards are identified, use engineering controls and work practice modifications to reduce personnel exposure. Remote controls, modified switching or LOTO/V procedures, etc.

Ensure OSHA Compliance and Meet Insurance Requirements

Every year, thousands of injuries occur due to arc flash and electrical accidents. While many of these incidents can be avoided, the right safety measures need to be in place to protect from such events.

Our arc flash hazard assessment services help reduce the risk of injury should an incident occur in your facilities. Arc flash study assessments also help you protect your people, minimize costs, and maintain compliance with credentialing authorities.

  • Reduce arc flash and fire risk.
  • Protect people and assets.
  • Protective clothing against the thermal hazards of an electric arc flash rely on accurate reporting

Diamond Bar Electric can provide various types of arc flash studies and high-level recommendations for your facility. We can walk you through the entire process, from assessment to implementation. More importantly many insurance policies will not protect from damages if proof of a recent Arc Flash Study has not been performed. DBE can provide compliant up-to-date reports to meet all requirements.

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