Five to 10 arc flash explosions occur in electrical equipment Arc Flash every day in the United States, according to a report from CapSchell, Inc., a Chicago-based research and consulting firm that specializes in preventing workplace injuries and deaths.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) describes an arc flash as “a dangerous condition associated with the release of energy caused by an electric arc.”
An arc flash is caused by a reduction of the insulation or isolation distance between energized components. This could be caused by a tool being inserted or dropped into a breaker or service area, or other elements that may be accidentally left behind that could compromise the distance between energized components. Often, incidents occur when a worker mistakenly fails to ensure that the equipment has been properly de-energized.
Arc flash incidents typically occur in applications above 120V and can occur when electrical equipment is being serviced or inspected. An arc flash can cause serious equipment damage and render the equipment no longer usable, causing a disruption of a facility’s operation for hours or days, depending on the equipment, its age and how quickly service can be restored. The explosion also can completely destroy the equipment, leaving it unsuitable for service.
More than sufficient time should be spent designing and evaluating high amperage circuit breakers and other products to limit the arc flash incident energy and provide the highest protection to workers exposed to arc flash hazards. Additionally, organizations should provide electrical safety training, proper personal protective equipment (PPE), preventative maintenance services and other options that can help companies reduce the threat from electrical or arc flash incidents within their facilities.
These are some of the critical reminders to industry workers and others:
- Establish a facility electrical safety program with clearly defined responsibilities.
- Appoint an electrical safety program manager.
- Conduct Arc Flash/NFPA 70E Electrical Safety Training for any workers exposed to 50V or more.
- Conduct a facility Arc Flash Risk Assessment/Hazard Analysis to determine what degree of arc flash hazard is present.
- Apply warning labels to all equipment.
- Ensure you have an adequate supply of properly rated protective clothing and equipment on hand, and that workers are using and testing, as required.
- Ensure that you have the proper tools on hand for employees to perform safe electrical work.
- Properly maintain all electrical distribution system components.
- Update and maintain all electrical distribution documentation.
- Stay up to date with the latest NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace requirements by retraining employees at a minimum of every three years, as there are changes & updates to the standard.
Questions & Information
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