Electrical Arc Flash: Does It Really Apply To Me?

It seems that over the past several months we have been hearing more and more about the hazards and codes related to electrical arc flash. There have been many seminars, conferences and training sessions popping up that are intended to raise awareness and explain the requirements associated with this electrical phenom­enon. One reason we are hearing so much about it lately is due to the January 1, 2009 deadline specified by the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) for an employer to have an arc flash analysis performed:

“ Effective January 1, 2009, the employer shall ensure that an assessment is performed to determine the potential exposure to an electrical arc for employees who work on or near energized parts or equipment” (NESC, 2007).

The best practice for prevention of electrical arc flash is to de-energize the parts and equipment prior to servicing them. Unfortunately, in many instances this is not possible or practical due to the maintenance or service troubleshooting requirements, or the operational effects that an equipment shut-down can cause for a facility and/or its occupants (i.e. medical equipment, production lines, equipment troubleshooting, etc.). In addition to the January 1st deadline, there are also new requirements regarding labeling of equipment. The 2009 edition of the NFPA 70E mandates that the available incident energy or required level of personal protective equipment (PPE) must be indicated on the label:

“ Equipment shall be field marked with a label containing the available incident energy or required level of PPE.” (NFPA 70E, 2009).

In summary, according to the NESC, 2007 and NFPA 70E, 2009, If employees work on or near energized parts or equipment, the following requirements apply:

  • An electrical arc flash analysis must be performed
  • Appropriate labeling must be installed that includes the incident energy level or required level of PPE
  • Adequate PPE must be used properly
  • A safety and training program must be implemented and followed.

Why risk being subjected to the consequences of an arc flash incident? Regardless of the financial impact of possible fines, production losses, worker’s compensation, health care, insurance premiums and lawsuits associated with an arc flash incident, protecting employees from possible injury or even death is well worth the investment to make your facilities arc flash compliant.

For more information regarding electrical arc flash requirements or to schedule a free visit from one of our engineers to speak with you and your staff, please contact Brian Burkhart, PE at 412-421-0145 or bgb@ba-inc.com.

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