A Comprehensive Guide to Arc Flash Studies (Everything You Need to Know)
Learn the basics of arc flash in 5 minutes or less.
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What is an Arc Flash?
An arc flash is when fault or short circuit in an electrical system creates an electric explosion, releasing intense heat, light, and pressure waves.
The rapid release of energy can cause severe injury to people and equipment, costing companies millions of dollars.
An arc flash can cause major problems:
OSHA fines & litigations
Expensive worker comp claims
Long production down times
Worker injuries & fatalities
What does an arc flash look like?
What is an Arc Flash Study?
An arc flash study (i.e. arc flash hazard analysis) is an analysis conducted by a professional Electrical Engineer to determine the amount of heat energy associated with an electrical arc flash event in a facility's power system. It is a component of an arc flash risk assessment.
The study's mission is to identify the available heat energy, provide mitigation recommendations to lower available energy where possible, and provide needed information to select proper PPE to lower the risks if an arc flash event occurs.
Benefits of an arc flash study:
Identify your facility's current electrical hazards
Apply arc flash safety labels equipment
Identify what your electrical system looks like
Stay 100% within NFPA 70E & OSHA compliance
Identifies the condition and rating of electrical equipment
Is an Arc Flash Study Required by Law?
OSHA mandates employers identify the electrical hazards employees are exposed too. Arc flash is a known electrical hazard. An arc flash study identifies the potential hazard so employees can select the appropriate PPE to work safely around electrical hazards.
The NFPA 70E does mention arc flash by name. This standard, created by the request of OSHA, has outlined guidelines for electrical safety in the workplace, which includes specific standards for arc flash risk assessments.
OSHA & NFPA 70E Codes & Standards
Listed a below are the top three codes and standards related to arc flash
"An arc flash risk assessment shall be performed to identify arc flash hazards, estimate the likelihood of occurrence, and to determine protective measures, including the use of PPE."
NFPA 70E, ARTICLE 130.5
"The employer shall establish, document, and implement (electrical) safety-related work practices and procedures..."
NFPA 70E, ARTICLE 105.3 (A)(2)
"One of the following methods shall be used for the selection of arc flash PPE: (1) the incident energy analysis method or (2)the arc flash PPE category method.."
NFPA 70E, ARTICLE 130.5 (F)
NFPA 70E Standard
"Employees working in areas where there are potential electrical hazards shall use electrical protective equipment appropriate for the specific parts of the body for the work being performed."
“The employer shall assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present...”
1910 Subpart 1, 1910.132(d)(1)
"Safety-related work practices shall be employed to prevent electric shock or other injuries resulting from either direct or indirect electrical contacts, when work is performed near or on equipment or circuits which are or may be energized."
Employer vs. Landlord
Who is Responsible for an Arc Flash Study?
While the landlord may have some responsibilities regarding the overall safety of the premises, including electrical systems in common areas, the specific study of arc flash hazards and the implementation of safety measures fall on the employer. However, if a worker injury occurs, both parties are liable for fines and litigtations.
Fine Potential (if worker injury occurs)
1910 Subpart 1, 1910.132(d)(1) , 29 CFR 1910.132 (d)(1), 29 CFR 1910.333 (b)(2)(iv)(B) , 29 CFR 1910.335 (a)(1)(i), 29 CFR 1910.335 (a)(1)(iv)
When Should I Do an Arc Flash Study?
The NFPA 70E is clear when discussing the frequency of when a facility should complete an arc flash risk assessment.
An arc flash study should be reviewed or updated at a minimum of every five years, or whenever facility modifications occur. These can be minor changes like fuse type or breaker settings or major changes like power additions or new equipment structure.
Section 130.5 - NFPA 70E
The Typical timeline
How Long Does an Arc Flash Study Take?
From data collection to deliverables in hand, an arc flash study realistically takes 9 to 16 weeks. This is for a facility size of 150,000 sq ft - 300,000 sq ft. If the density of electrical equipment is high and service add-ons are created (equipment evaluations, coordination studies, etc.), the process will take longer depending on the deliverables.
Let's assume we have a 300,000 sq ft facility, with medium equipment density, and five utility transformers. The age of the equipment is five years old, and the facility's condition is moderately clean. The facility manager wants a basic incident energy analysis done, arc flash labels printed and applied, and one-line diagrams created. This would be an average workload that would take around
Example arc flash timeline
A Price Breakdown
How Much Do Arc Flash Studies Cost?
Arc flash studies can cost anywhere between $12,000 and $86,000 per facility. The price depends on a variety of factors, including facility size, density of electrical equipment, age of the equipment, number of utility transformers, arc flash deliverables (equipment evaluation, coordination study, etc.), and more.
Let's take the same 300,000 sq ft facility with medium equipment density and five utility transformers example. The age of the equipment is five years old, and the facility's condition is moderately clean. The facility manager wants a basic incident energy analysis done, arc flash labels printed and applied, and one-line diagrams created. The estimated cost for a facility like this would be $44,171.00.
$12,000 - $86,000
Estimated arc flash study cost
The Arc Flash Deliverables
What's Included in an Arc Flash Study?
A typical arc flash study will include reports and printouts that provide crucial information and analysis regarding the electrical system's potential arc flash hazards.
Here is the list of deliverables commonly found within an arc flash study: single-line diagrams, arc flash labels, a hazard analysis report, a mitigation study, a utility data report, and a fault contribution study. An equipment evaluation and coordination study are add-ons to the study option based on the facility.
✔️ Herzig Arc Flash Labels
✔️ Single-line Diagrams
✔️ Mitigation Study
✔️ Fault Contribution Study
✔️ Utility Data Report
✔️ Arc Flash Hazard Report
What are the Steps in an Arc Flash Analysis?
The typical arc flash analysis process is fairly simple and can be completed in five steps:
Data Collection: The gathering of relevant information about the electrical system and equipment.
Engineering Analysis: The use of specialized arc flash software and engineering to calculate calculate arc flash hazards.
Labeling: Application of appropriate warning labels on electrical equipment indicating arc flash hazards.
Updates: The renewal of an arc flash study, no more than every 5 years.
Collect data onsite at your facility
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