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Arc Flashing Hazards Analysis

Electrical Panel Arc Flash
Electrical Panel Arc Flash

In February 2004, a new standard was issued by the National Fire Protection Association. NFPA-70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace created formal requirements for the installation and maintenance of new electrical equipment and Arc Flash safety. This standard has become a topic of great conversation in the electrical industry and has created confusion for facilities managers in educational, industrial and commercial/industrial markets segments. With no grace period for enforcement by OSHA, managers and owners must train their staff, label equipment and buy protective equipment in accordance with NFPA-70E. In the event of a workplace injury, owners are liable for not following the Standard, and fear of litigation and fines is moving industry owners and managers to action.

The NFPA-70E (2004) Standard requires that a facility conduct Arc Flash Hazard Analysis to determine what hazards exist and at what magnitude as well as provide markings, Personal Protective Equipment and training for employees performing live work. If electrical work could always be performed on de-energized equipment the need for such rigid standards would be reduced.

The purpose of the Arc Flash Hazard Analysis is to evaluate the available fault currents at electrical substations, switchboards, panels, etc. and those values coupled with the known reaction speed of devices (fuses, circuit breakers, etc.) allows a calculation of Incident Energy at each piece of equipment. Incident Energy (measured in calories/square centimeter) is the available electrical energy that can radiate outward from a panel, device, etc. due to a failure or close contact from tools or workers. The electrical arc will persist until interrupted by an upstream protective device; however the energy produced can continue to increase given the combustible nature and the pressure from being contained in a panel board (or other enclosure). This energy once released can carry temperatures over 5000ºF, a blinding flash and a damaging shock wave resulting in hearing loss, projectile injuries, etc. to employees.

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