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An arc flash study is a risk analysis that is performed by an electrical engineer. A correctly executed study can help improve plant safety by identifying the specific arc flash hazard at a given piece of equipment. It identifies the Arc Flash Protection Boundary, which is the closest approach allowed before PPE must be worn. Proper clothing or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn once a worker steps inside the Arc Flash Protection Boundary. The main goal of arc flash PPE is to minimize burns to the body resulting from an arc flash incident. The only way to determine the proper PPE when working on a certain piece of electrical equipment is to have an Arc Flash Study completed. Qualified workers determine the proper PPE through the labeling from the study.
There are four different standards that dictate practices for the prevention of arc flash incidents in the United States:
NFPA 70 NEC (National Electric Code) – Mandatory by state law to comply with the NEC for all new construction. Versions 2014 and prior editions contain requirements for general arc flash warning labels:
“Electrical equipment, such as switchboards, switchgear, panelboards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures, and motor control centers, that are in other than dwelling units, and are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized, shall be field or factory marked to warn qualified persons of potential electric arc flash hazards. The marking shall meet the requirements in 110.21(B) and shall be located so as to be clearly visible to qualified persons before examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance of the equipment.”
The 2017 edition requires detailed arc flash warning labels as specified in NFPA 70E.
“In addition to the requirements in (A), service equipment shall contain the following information:
1. Nominal system voltage
2. Arc flash boundary
3. At least one of the following:
a. Available incident energy and the corresponding working distance
b. Minimum arc rating of clothing
c. Site-specific level of PPE”
IEEE Standard – Serves as a guide for performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations.
NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces– Provides a guide for safely working in hot electrical equipment. In regards to Arc Flash, it is guidance for making risk assessments (Arc Flash Studies), it details the requirements for arc flash boundaries, it serves as guidance for selecting appropriate PPE, and also guidance for establishing electrically-safe working conditions and employee training. NFPA 70 requires arc flash risk assessment. The NFPA 70E Section 130.5 states the following:
An arc flash risk assessment shall be performed and shall:
1. Determine if an arc flash hazard exists. If an arc flash hazard exists, the risk assessment shall determine:
a. Appropriate safety-related work practices
b. The arc flash boundary
c. The PPE to be used within the arc flash boundary
2. Be updated when a major modification or renovation takes place. It shall be reviewed periodically, at intervals not to exceed 5 years, to account for changes in the electrical distribution system that could affect results of the arc flask rick assessment.
3. Take into consideration the design of the overcurrent protective device and its opening time, including its condition of maintenance.”
OSHA – Addresses standards for work practices and has referenced compliance to NFPA 70E in the “general duty clause” as their basis for implementation. The general clause duty states that employers “shall furnish to each of its employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” It considers NFPA 70E an industrial consensus standard and it intended for use by employers, and employees. OSHA expects employers and employees to comply with the provisions of NFPA 70E regardless of whether or not it has been “adopted” as an OSHA requirement.
PCX Corporation provides total NFPA 70E arc flash compliance as a service. An arc flash study for your facility includes the following:
1. Initial meeting and data collection
2. One-line diagram
3. Short Circuit Study
4. Protection/Coordination Study
5. Arc Flash Evaluation
6. Arc Flash hazard labels
7. Final Report consisting of
Step-by-Step Guide to Performing Arc Flash Studies