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Arc flash | Workplace Solutions | Electrical

Electrical safety

I’m the safety manager at my company, and I’ve just been assigned to hire someone to do an arc flash hazard analysis. Where do I begin?

October 28, 2013

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Responding is Doug Baxter, senior consultant, AVO Training Institute Inc., Dallas.

I just typed “Arc Flash Hazard Analysis” into my browser and got 86,000 hits! I know what we can do. Let’s ask that engineer in maintenance. In my history of teaching arc flash electrical safety, I’ve had more than 2,500 engineers attend my classes. I always start with the same question: How many of you had at least one hour in college on arc flash hazard analysis when you studied for your degree? To date, not one hand. I would like to propose three steps to get you started:

  1. Become knowledgeable about the terms that will be used, including qualified/unqualified persons, arc flash hazard analysis, arc rating, arc thermal performance value (ATPV), approach boundaries (limited, restricted, prohibited, arc flash), working on, and incident nergy. (The definitions can be found in Step 3.)
  2. Learn what the phrases that will be used, including single-line diagram, data gathering, bolted fault short-circuit current, short circuit current analysis, hazard/risk category, shock hazard analysis, electrically safe work condition, alerting techniques, mitigation of lethal hazards and more. (The answers can be found in Step 3.)
  3. Become familiar with the standards that will be used: IEEE Standard 1584-2002 (guide for performing arc-flash hazard calculations). NFPA 70E-2012 (standard for electrical safety in the workplace). NFPA 70-2011 (national electric code). OSHA (Subparts S, R and K). NESC-(National Electric Safety Code)-IEEE AN 2012.

Several years ago, I had a safety manager attend one of our classes on arc flash electrical safety. At the beginning of the class, students introduced themselves and stated what they wanted to learn. This safety manager stated that he had narrowed his search to two firms for his arc flash hazard analysis. The firms were tens of thousands of dollars apart. He hoped he would get the knowledge to finalize his decision. At the beginning of the third day, I asked him if he had made his decision. He said yes. I then asked him which firm he chose. He said the higher-priced firm. He realized that with the knowledge gathered he would have to complete the process again if he chose the cheaper one.

Education and knowledge is where you start. You may have to attend an electrical safety course or seminar, buy some study guides, and prepare a list of questions to be answered. You have an opportunity to reduce the risk of a disabling burn injury or maybe save a person’s life.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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