Archive for arc flash analysis

Arguing the “Myths” of an Electrical Arc Flash Hazard Analysis…

One very common “Myth” in dealing with Maintenance and Safety Managers across the country, regarding arc flash hazard analysis, is the attempt to rely on the basic PPE matrix chart in the NFPA 70e publication. First, we need to understand that the intent of the chart, as stated clearly in the text, is that it to be used in lieu off and only when an Arc Flash Hazard Analysis (Arc Flash Risk Assessment) has not been made to determine the incident energy at the point in question. In other words, Use the matrix only if you “Must” work in a panel before a proper arc flash analysis has been conducted. Equipment owners and employers must provide the information necessary to determine the correct PPE or personal protection equipment that a worker must wear or use.

This miss- conception, while dangerous and life threatening as it may be, is still argued almost every day between those safety and maintenance people who understand the regulations, and those likewise who just browse thru the publication, bouncing from section to section, looking for a “way out” of doing what is ultimately “Right” to protect the lives of those who are charged with working on or around those potent electrical panels.

I have had the opportunity to stand face to face with many Safety and Maintenance Managers throughout the nation and around the world, who from many different industries, have not been afforded the time to learn, nor, the time to seek updates on these types of regulations. In almost every case, where our meeting and conversation starts with a visit and citation from the friendly O.S.H.A. accident investigator, or inspector, or, by the requirements passed down through some “Corporate” mandated memo, these managers need help to decipher the miles of “Safety Ease” piled into OSHA 1910 or NFPA 70e. Relying on a solid consultant to give the proper advice is key.

Dave Carpenter BSEE

Electrical Engineer

Arc Flash Engineering

The Size of your Electrical Panels Doesn’t Matter! They all can be Dangerous.

Frog Arc FlashPeople commonly make the mistake of assuming if something is small it is less dangerous or perhaps not dangerous at all. This assumption is often correct but occasionally it can be very deadly.

For instance: The Dart frog. This beautiful and rare little frog only weighs a few grams and is full grown at about 5 centimetres. Not a very intimidating little fellow huh? Certainly not very dangerous…..Or is he?

Give this little guy just a tiny poke with your bare finger and he can easily take your life in just a matter of minutes. He secretes, through his skin, one of the most deadly neurotoxins in the world. Just a pin head size drop (or 2 micrograms) of his toxin can shut down your nervous system causing your heart to stop functioning instantly.
So, a little advice from the guys at Arc Flash Engineering: don’t go handling or poking around this little guy unless you’re wearing the proper gloves or “PPE” (Personal Protection Equipment).
Fortunately for you, you don’t have to worry about coming across any Dart frogs unless of course you plan on visiting the remote jungles of South America. However, deadlier threats do exist in our daily lives and we often overlook them, take them for granted, or simply don’t know they even exist.

Take Electricity for example. Electricity is managed through electrical panels which are found virtually everywhere. Though when installed correctly, properly maintained, and treated with respect electrical panels pose very little threat. However, regardless of the size, if you go poking around in an electrical panel you can easily cause an electrical arc flash which can kill you faster than the toxin of any frog or anything on earth for that matter. So, just as in the case of touching the Dart frog, you must have on the proper gloves and PPE or personal protection equipment (required by OSHA) before you go poking around in electrical panels.

An electrical accident such as an arc flash or arc blast can result in a fiery explosion so hot that it expands the copper fuses in an electrical panel 67,000 times larger then their actual size creating devastating energy blast and 700 mile an hour shrapnel. The core of the blast can reach over 35,000 degrees fahrenheit – roughly four times hotter than the surface of the sun.

The application of PPE greatly reduces the risk of death by protecting your entire body. PPE is divided into categories 1 through 4. Category 1 would be the minimal amount of protection required and category 4 would be the heaviest amount of protection required. If the correct category of PPE is not applied then you are still at a high risk of injury or death should an electrical incident occur.

Smaller electrical panel requires a higher level of arc flash rated PPE.

Smaller panel (A) requires the use of PPE category level 4. Larger panel (B) only requires the use of category 2 PPE.

Just because panel (A) is small (just like our little frog) does not mean that it is less dangerous. The assumption that it is smaller therefore must carry less electricity, lower voltage, or less amperage can be deadly. Unfortunately, the panels (shown above) are not even properly labeled, which gives the maintenance worker no idea what level of PPE he or she needs when working on or around these electrical panels. Nor is their any safe approach boundary information posted.

The Dart frog gives you fare warning that he is dangerous with his flashy bright colors. Unfortunately, the electrical panels in many facilities around the country don’t offer this type of warning. A properly labeled electrical panel will have a 4”x 6” arc flash warning label posted very clearly in bright orange and white warning you of the danger and providing you with the necessary PPE and approach boundary information.

The use of proper warning labels is required by OSHA and NFPA 70E. So, if your facility has electrical panels without the bright orange warning label with all the required information then your business or facility is not in compliance and could be subject to heavy fines.

Properly labeled electrical panels by Arc Flash Engineering

Properly labeled electrical panels by Arc Flash Engineering.

NFPA 70E 2009 requires that one of two specific pieces of information appear on arc flash warning labels: available incident energy or required level of PPE. These values are determined by an arc flash hazard analysis, and need to be calculated separately for each piece of equipment labeled.

When OSHA does a safety audit on a facility, company, or business one of the first things they check is to see if the electrical panels are properly labeled with OSHA compliant arc flash warning labels.

Arc Flash Warning Label

If your facilities arc flash warning labels don’t look like this (4”x6”) then your facility may not be in compliance with OSHA and NFPA.

There are over 340 electrocution and arc flash deaths in the U.S. per year (one death every 28 hours) and arc flash injuries occur 1000 times more often then shark attacks. This makes electrical related accidents the 4th highest cause of deaths in the workplace.

Don’t let one of your employees or coworkers become another statistic.

Find out how you can make your business or facility safe and in compliance with OSHA and NFPA 70E Call Arc Flash Engineering today Toll Free#: 800-381-4389 or click here.