What is Arc Flash?
An Arc Flash is an explosive release of energy caused by an electrical short circuit between two energised conductors or an energised conductor and earth. The sudden discharge of electrical energy causes a brilliant explosion of light and sound. The temperatures inside an Arc Flash incident can reach 19,000°C (sun’s surface temperature is 6000°C) causing conductors especially copper to vaporise. The explosion causes shrapnel and vaporised conductors to escape the blast site at 1600km/hr. This amount of energy is sufficient to cause severe injury to anyone within the blast radius. The injuries can range from burns, blindness, hearing loss, impact injury, psychological trauma, and even death. Critically, most Arc Flash incidents happen when the electrical system is being worked on and “live” and thus Arc Flash presents a serious risk to the employees.
What does the law say about arc flash?
Health and safety legislation in Ireland and the UK imposes numerous duties on employers and the self-employed (contractors) in relation to Arc Flash and electrical safety in general. Employers must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health, and welfare at work of employees and any other persons who may be affected by their undertakings (Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 in ROI, The Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974/N.I Order 1978 in the UK). Notably, this general duty extends to the provision and maintenance of safe plant and systems of work, and the provision of such information, instruction, training, and supervision as is necessary. Arc Flash and other hazards associated with electricity at work must be managed in this context.
More specifically, employers must make a suitable and adequate assessment of the risks to health and safety, and those include Arc Flash and other risks involving electricity, and to put in place the necessary preventive and protective measures (2005 Act in ROI, Safety at Work Regulations 1999/N.I. 2000 in the UK).
Persons engaged in any work activity involving electricity must be competent to prevent danger (Safety, Health & Welfare at Work General Application Regs. 2007 Part 3 in ROI, Electricity at Work Regs. 1989/N.I.1991 in UK). That means, not only to have the appropriate technical knowledge but also understanding of the hazards, risks and work precautions to be observed.
What is an Arc Flash Study?
An arc flash study is a standard based (IEEE 1584) study of a client’s electrical network. The purpose of the study is to identify the maximum incident energy and arc flash boundary at every point of the network. Understanding the magnitude of the hazard is a key starting point when preparing control measures to protect workers. Our experience and expertise with arc flash studies and related works are widely recognized in the UK, Ireland, and internationally and we are used across multiple industries.
What is the journey to electrical safety?
The following is a brief outline of the process we use to carry out an arc flash study to help keep you and your employees safe and compliant with the law.
Step one of the process is a service called Electrical Infrastructure and Maintenance Analysis’ or ‘Gap Analysis’. Within this service, the client’s existing electrical procedures and risk control documents are collated and analysed to understand their specific corporate requirements and facility-specific working practices. Premium Power carries out a document review of current electrical safety procedures for identifying gaps, if any, between documented procedures and legal requirements applicable to the related electrical equipment and work activities. To determine the level of compliance afforded by the client’s current electrical safety documentation Premium Power benchmark the client’s current electrical safety procedures against applicable health and safety legislation and standards.
At this point of the arc flash study, your allocated Premium Power engineer will require a significant amount of data from you the client. Your assigned engineer will arrive on site at an agreed time to help you obtain all the necessary data as part of the arc flash study. This may take more than one day and more than one survey.
The Network modelling step in the arc flash study plays a vital role in the study carried out by your Premium Power Engineer. Premium Power will use the data received in the site survey to model your electrical distribution network. The network model provides the structure from which engineering studies such as arc flash hazard studies, short circuit studies, load-flow studies and protection coordination studies can be carried out.
Arc Flash Mitigation
The modelling exercise may identify areas of client’s electrical distribution network where incident energy levels pose a potential problem or concern. Using our experience and the network model, we can then devise safety measures to mitigate against future arc flash. Generally, Premium Power recommends that safety measures be implemented to minimise arc flash hazard(s). Other than de-energising the electrical conductors, many engineering solutions can be utilised to overcome incident energy levels posing a potential problem or concern. It should be noted that PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) must always be considered as the last line of defence.
Arc Flash Hazard Labelling
Once an arc flash hazard study has been undertaken by Premium Power at your request, arc flash labels in agreement with you can be generated for all locations that labels are required on your electrical distribution network. For clients within the European Union (EU), labels are designed to comply with requirements of Directive 92/58/EE: Safety &/or Health Signs. Arc flash labels are typically designed to provide critical information to the client and other interested or affected personnel who may be working on parts of the network.
Electrical Risk Assessments
Electrical Risk Assessments are the essential first steps in the process of implementing risk controls to ensure the safety of workers. Assessing the arc flash hazard is an essential input into the Risk Assessment process. All potential risks need to be managed and reduced in compliance with guides and standards. Premium Power can help you with this and make recommendations.
Industrial Electrical Safety Procedures
Industrial Electrical Safety Procedures are risk controls developed to mitigate any electrical hazards identified during the risk assessment process. The risk assessment process informs the safety procedures. It is recommended that the development of safety procedures follows on from the risk assessment process. Premium Power understands that every facility has unique electrical safety challenges, system configurations, and business operations. Our clients have very specific needs and varying degrees of electrical safety knowledge/understanding and compliance. Premium Power works closely with their clients to ensure that we enhance their safety procedures while also accommodating their business operations. A comprehensive approach to electrical safety procedures is recommended for facilities that consistently require scheduled and unscheduled electrical maintenance activities to be performed.
Electrical Safety Training
Training is crucial to ensure site-wide compliance. Premium Power provides safety training to our client’s engineering management and staff. Current safety training workshops delivered by Premium Power include:
- Arc Flash Hazard in Electrical Networks
- Electrical Safety Management
- Essential Electrical Safety & Awareness
- Legal Duties Relating to Work Involving Electricity
The purpose of Electric Arc Flash Awareness Training is to make personnel aware of the arc flash hazard and, to utilise the information that will be listed on the arc flash warning label and the implications. The content of the Electric Arc Flash Awareness Training generally covers:
- Introduction to Electric Arc Flash
- Arc Flash Hazard – a legal perspective
- Risks Surrounding Arc Flash
- Steps involved in an arc flash program/study
- Arc Flash Boundaries
- Arc Flash PPE Requirements
- Arc Flash mitigation techniques
- Arc Flash Signage
- Demonstration of Arc Flash PPE
- Health & Safety Legal Requirements Relating to Electricity at Work,
- Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work legislation
As Premium Power is an accredited Engineers Ireland continuous professional development (CPD) trainer, the Electric Arc Flash Awareness Training course is CPD accredited and upon completion, a certificate will be issued to all attendees. All areas of the arc flash Journey are as important as each other. The arc flash study is key to keeping you and your employees safe and your company compliant.