COVID-19 Update

Arc Flash Training for Essential Workers

We understand so many are affected by this and concerned about COVID-19 and the unknown that it poses, and how long this could go on. We are here and will continue to keep you compliant and ensure employee safety throughout this time, and try to maintain some sense of normalcy, as much as possible!

We want to assure you that we’re taking all necessary health and safety precautions in accordance with the CDC and local and state health officials, and we’ll continue to actively monitor developments related to coronavirus (COVID-19). The health and safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority.

We know the services our customers provide are essential and we are committed to continue supporting you. We have remote and flexible options in place for you during these times.

We will get through this together.

Collapsed New Orleans Hard Rock Hotel, facing ‘willful’ and ‘serious’ safety violations from OSHA

Collapsed New Orleans Hard Rock Hotel, facing ‘willful’ and ‘serious’ safety violations from OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found numerous safety violations at the site of the 18-story Hard Rock Hotel construction site in New Orleans, which partially collapsed in October, killing three and injuring dozens.

OSHA fined 11 contractors on the project for life-threatening violations, with the largest fines imposed against Heaslip Engineering, reports the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.

Heaslip Engineering, based in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, was found to have committed both “serious” and “willful” violations and was fined $154,214. OSHA’s findings included that “floor beams on the 16th floor were under-designed in load capacity” and “structural steel connections were inadequately designed, reviewed or approved,” the latter a “willful” violation……

….Other contractors working on the Hard Rock Hotel project were cited for violations that included a lack of training, not providing protective equipment and failing to keep exits clear.

Click here for the full article from USA Today

Arc Flash PPE and COVID-19

The article explains how sharing PPE can be at higher risk of being exposed to the Coronavirus, and goes on to discuss how long the virus survives on PPE and how it can be cleaned properly. See the link below to the full article.

How the electrical industry must work together to reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Sharing is not caring… when it comes to arc flash PPE. For decades, workers have been sharing arc flash personal protective equipment, including suits, hoods and face shields but — to protect the safety and health of our workers — this age-old practice must stop immediately.

Workers who share PPE are at a higher risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. In this regard, sharing is not caring. Actually caring about our workers requires employers to issue individually assigned equipment. Any PPE, tools, or equipment that must be shared among workers must first be cleaned and disinfected before each use.

The best way to protect workers from cross-contamination is to stop sharing arc flash PPE. Suit hoods and face shields are particularly high-risk due to their proximity to the worker’s mouth and nose. Every time you exhale, cough, or sneeze, your bodily fluids can be deposited onto the interior surface of the shield and/or fabric. Even outerwear garments, such as suit coats, can become contaminated when workers dutifully and conscientiously cough or sneeze into their arm. The safest solution is to individually assign all arc flash PPE, and prohibit workers from sharing any PPE that cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected before each use…

“… the safest, most effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and keep our workers healthy is to individually assign arc flash PPE to every worker requiring it. We must all work together to help stem the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Click here for the full article “Stop Sharing Arc Flash PPE” from EC&M.

CDC Recommendations to help Employers deal with Coronavirus (Covid-19)

The CDC has put together the Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to help
Plan, Prepare and Respond to the Coronavirus in the workplace

The interim guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, in non-healthcare settings. The guidance also provides planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of COVID-19.

To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, use only the guidance described below to determine risk of COVID-19. Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin, and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed COVID-19. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features of COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing. Updates are available on CDC’s COVID-19 web page.

Click here to view the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

Preventing and Minimizing Arc Flash Risk

Following OSHA regulations and using good design can reduce the risk of damage to workers and equipment from arc flashes.

Arc flashes present a serious hazard involving electrical equipment that is more common than many would believe. Due to OSHA’s reporting requirements for arc flashes, they are under-reported or not reported at all. No one is certain how frequently they occur, but some sources estimate there are five to 10 electrical equipment explosions (aka arc flashes) each day in the U.S.

Most reports on electrical-related injuries focus on shock and electrocution, rather than arc flashes in which explosive forces, heat, and gasses cause the injuries and deaths, according to the National Fire Prevention Assoc. But research conducted across burn centers show arc flashes cause 34% to 55% of all the electrical burns received on the job.

It has been estimated that more than 2,000 workers are admitted to burn centers annually to be treated for severe arc-flash burns, and arc flash incidents kill one to two people every day. In addition to injuries and fatalities, arc flash also carries significant financial costs. Medical treatment for arc-flash injuries costs an average of $1.5 million per incident, which is borne by the factory owner. This makes arc-flash prevention and risk reduction a high priority when designing electrified equipment.

Labels indicate boundaries around electric enclosures and levels of personal protective equipment  for working inside it.

Arc Flashes vs. Arc Faults

An arc flash is the explosion caused by a phase-to-phase or phase-to-ground short circuit. Arc flashes emit extreme heat, intense light, and violent pressure blasts. In comparison, an arc fault is the high-power discharge that causes the short and triggers an arc flash. Arc faults can be caused by several different conditions, including a faulty wire, a loose fuse, a tool dropped into a live cabinet, or even personal contact with live components.

Arc flashes pose a significant risk for bodily harm from the force of the explosion, heat of the blast, and the corrosiveness of the gasses. Physically, the pressure of the explosion can be as much as 10,000 psi, which compares to the force of a high-speed collision.

In addition to its explosive force, arc flashes carry high temperatures and can reach up to 35,000°F, which is hotter than the surface of the sun. Arc events also create noxious and corrosive gasses that, if inhaled, increase the chances of catastrophic injury or death.

Arc-Flash Regulations and Standards

The Occupation Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is the governing body that regulates workplace safety, including arc flash prevention, equipment labeling, and use of personal protection equipment (PPE). Specific standards related to arc flash include OSHA 1910.137 for electrical protective equipment and OSHA 1910.269 App E on protection from flames and electric arcs.

 The National Fire Prevention Association’s standard NFPA 70E covers safety-related work practices, maintenance requirements, and special equipment requirements. Companies that comply with NFPA 70E must conduct an Arc Flash Risk Asessment, sometimes called an Arc Flash Study or Arc Flash HazardAnalysis. The review determines safe work practices, arc-flash boundaries, and appropriate levels of PPE to be used.

Underwriters Laboratory also has a standard specifically for industrial control panels and switchgear (manufactured and modified). It covers control panels intended for general industrial use and operating at 600 V or less. Equipment meeting this standard is installed in “ordinary” locations in accordance with the National Electrical Code, ANSI/NFPA 70.

As the governing body for workplace safety, OSHA regs are the driving force for compliance in the U.S. Manufacturers that do not meet the regs can be fined by OSHA and lose their insurance. With OSHA issuing fines and penalties when workers are put at risk for arc flash injuries, a common misconception arose that the agency enforces NFPA 70E. Although companies are not specifically required to comply with NFPA 70E, it acts as an outline on how to ensure compliance with OSHA’s arc flash safety regulations.

A Closer Look at NFPA 70E

NFPA 70E sets arc flash boundaries for organizations, including keeping 3 ft away from cabinets with electrical circuits running at less than 750 V and keeping 19 feet away from cabinets holding circuits running at 15,000 to 36,000 V. Boundaries are delineated by tape or a chain and show the safe distance from cabinets for workers without PPE.

Arc flash boundaries vary with the risk level and the voltage of the equipment. For instance, a “limited” range is for minimal shock hazards from electrical overarcs; a “restricted” range is for increased shock risks; and a “prohibited” range entails significant risks of direct contact with electrified components. Ranges for these boundaries are outlined in NFPA 70E table 2-1.3.4. and OSHA 29 CFR,1910.269 table R6.

Energized panels or boards must be marked with a danger or warning label that indicates the potential hazard and the level of PPE required (from 0 to 4). Category 0 PPE requires cotton, untreated fiber shirts and pants, safety glasses, and hearing protection. It warns against wearing polyester or synthetic fabrics near the equipment that could melt This category is for areas with the lowest potential for an arc flash event, but the standard warns against wearing polyester or synthetic fabrics that could melt near the equipment. At the other end of the spectrum, Category 4 protection includes an arc-rated suit, along with protection for face and head, hands, eyes, and hearing, as well as a hard hat and appropriate footwear.

Reducing the Risks

To minimize the possibility risk of an arc flash, follow OSHA’s lockout/tagout procedures. When followed closely, they can protect workers from hazardous energy release and from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment.

Lockout/tagout requires that machinery be turned off and disconnected from its energy source before anyone performs maintenance on it. It mandates that authorized individuals either lock or tag the energy isolating device(s) to prevent the release of hazardous energy. An authorized person must also take the required steps to verify energy has been isolated effectively. Lockout devices hold energy-isolation equipment in a safe or off position. They prevent equipment from being energized and can only be unlocked with a key. Tagout devices feature prominent warnings that are fastened to energy-isolating equipment to warn workers not to reenergize the equipment while it is being serviced. Details for using tagout devices are listed in the OSHA standard, The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1910.147.

 The safest way to work on any panel is when the panel is turned off. If lockout/tagout is done correctly, maintenance staff can safely work on electric panels without risking exposure to arc flash.

An arc flash assessment, another required safety measure, determines both the potential and intensity of an arc flash. Calculations done in these assessments (found in IEEE 1584, Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations) helps in creating appropriate training and procedures for anyone working with energized electrical parts, switches, breakers, or other equipment.

To minimize arc flash risks, it is critical to understand that NFPA 70E standards make it easier to comply with OSHA regulations. NFPA 70E outlines proper training and  procedures and PPE standards for manufacturers and their maintenance staff. In addition, engineers can design arc-flash prevention into enclosures so that they serve as the first line of defense. Using the isolated box approach, customized with appropriate accessories, manufacturers can prevent unsafe access inside enclosures. As manufacturers look to improve efficiency and safety of their operations, developing and executing proper arc flash prevention standards will ensure the health of their staff and their bottom line.

 

Click here to read the entire article from Machine Design.