Arc Flash Studies: Everything You Need To Know & Why It’s Deadly Serious
If you’re a hospital, manufacturer, processing plant, or any other type of facility that relies on electricity, you’re at risk of having what’s called an arc flash.
August 4, 2022
An arc flash is an electrical explosion that happens when current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another. An arc flash can happen anywhere the current has the chance to escape.
Your organization does not want an arc flash to occur, let alone hurt or kill someone. That’s why arc flash studies are conducted to identify the hazards and help prevent workers from being unprepared.
Continue reading for an overview of what an arc flash study is, how one works, and how to train your employees, so they are prepared in case one happens.
Need an arc flash study completed? Hire Herzig Engineering.
WHAT IS AN ARC FLASH STUDY?
An arc flash study is performed by an electrical engineer. They collect electrical system information, analyze data, and create warning or danger labels to apply to the equipment. The goal is to identify and reduce the hazard levels a company may face if there was an electrical explosion.
An arc flash study utilizes “The design of the electrical equipment, and its overcurrent protective device and its operating time” NFPA 70E 130.5 (B) – to identify potential arc flash hazards for each electrical enclosure and determine what PPE should be worn to protect workers from that hazard.
The study doesn’t just identify hazards, it also results in actionable improvements to the site’s protective devices (incident energy reduction recommendations).
For example, arc flash labels on equipment, analysis of fault current and coordination, identifying areas of improvement, and suggested requirements for personal protective equipment are outputs you’ll receive from an arc flash study.
WHEN IS AN ARC FLASH STUDY REQUIRED?
At the bare minimum, you’ll need to update your arc flash study every 5 years or whenever there is a significant change in the electrical system (which could be every year or less).
So what counts as a ‘significant change’? If you’re adding a new electrical service or large motors, or you’re expanding your facility, then you’ll certainly need to update your arc flash study.
If a facility or company currently does not have an arc flash study and training completed, please get one started this month. The longer you wait, the more chances there are of someone being seriously injured or killed.
Maybe you’ve already had a study done. If so, make sure it’s current. If you have had any changes in the system (breakers changed, different fuses used, new equipment, etc.), then you are due for an update.
WHO CAN PERFORM AN ARC FLASH ANALYSIS?
An arc flash analysis should be carried out by a trained electrical safety professional, like an engineer who specializes in those services. But who that person is will depend on where the company is located as rules can vary from state to state.
You must ensure that the person carrying out the analysis is a registered professional engineer; if they’re not, then the test may violate state law.
It’s possible to use an in-house engineer to perform the task, but it’s important to proceed with caution before doing so. Many in-house electrical engineers are well-trained but not in the areas that are specifically required to perform a thorough arc flash study. They often don’t have the time or expertise to perform a study to the highest standards.
Sure, anyone can perform the calculations using computer software. But just because it is possible does not mean it is plausible. The provider of an arc flash study should be an established and experienced electrical engineer or safety professional.
THE ARC FLASH PROCESS (A-Z)
Typical arc flash studies include a five-step process:
Data collection. A technician or engineer will gather data from the client’s facility/site in a format to be entered into a computer program and modeled. This information requires access to electrical equipment, although it does not mean the equipment needs to be shut down or powered off. A trained and responsible electrician can gather this data with no interruptions to operations.
Computer Modeling. Utilizing electrical engineering software(s) such as SKM PowerTools, engineers model one-line drawings and run reports with the most current calculations, all by using the data collected by the technicians.
Review. Making sure that everything is accurate is of the utmost importance when performing an arc flash study, as safety is paramount. A reputable provider will include the client in their review process to verify the integrity of the data and confirm that the electrical model is correct.
Labeling. Labels are the part that ties everything together. Without labels, you effectively do not have an arc flash study completed. The labels provide pertinent information on the hazard and must be followed closely to maintain the safest work environment.
Reports. At the end of it all, the client will receive a final report containing various bits of information generated from the study, as well as one-line drawings signed by an engineer. These drawings go hand-in-hand with the labels in capturing and displaying necessary data about the study.
At Herzig Engineering, we offer arc flash studies that will identify any uncertainties and risks within your facility. Our team works fast and guarantees the quality of work.
ARC FLASH TRAINING: HOW TO DO IT
Arc flash and shock hazard training could be classroom-based, on-the-job, or a combination of the two. We recommend a combination of the two if a worker ever must implement electrically safe work practices on the job.
Electrical safety training should include topics like:
Hazard Identification (shock and arc flash/blast hazards explained)
Risk Assessment Procedures (how to assess the likelihood and severity of the possible injury and implement measures to lower risk)
Meters, Tools, and PPE (selection, inspection, and use)
How to establish an Electrically Safe Work Condition (ESWC)
Energized work permits and procedures
And any other electrical safety-related work practice applicable to their job!
Employees are trained so that they are fully compliant with the company’s safety practices and protocols. The training should speak to the level of the worker. If there’s a room of electricians vs. a room of line operators vs. a room of safety professionals, the information should be expressed in a way that is most useful to them.
Electrical safety training will require ongoing sessions, especially when any changes are made. You can make the training sessions valuable by ensuring that your staff is fully engaged with the process.
QUALITY ARC FLASH STUDIES & ONLINE TRAINING
Need an arc flash study completed? Then be sure to get in touch with us here at Herzig Engineering.
With more than 20 years of experience, our team members are experts in everything related to electrical engineering. We provide online and in-person arc flash training and studies to reduce risk and create a safer, more efficient workplace.
Request an electrical safety quote now and start the process.
About the Author
We write about workplace and electrical safety. We want every worker to go home safely to their families and fulfill their job duties without risk.