Many manufacturing and industrial operations contain electrically powered equipment, which can pose an arc flash hazard. An electric arc is a luminous bridge that develops in a gap between two electrodes. An arc flash occurs during a short circuit that passes through the gap.
An arc flash study is a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of a facility to determine the existence of electrical system hazards. An electrical safety expert conducts the study and makes recommendations regarding improvements and requirements in various areas. The results will also categorize the equipment’s hazard level based on the incident energy findings.
What’s Included in an Arc Flash Study?
An arc flash coordination study encompasses the following:
- Short circuit calculations: Assists in identifying bolting and arced fault levels at specific points within a power distribution system.
- Arc flash hazard calculations: Determines the acceptable flash hazard boundary, incident energy level and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirement at each location.
- Protective device coordination: Helps to determine the duration of the arcing faults.
- Potentially hazardous work areas: Identifies locations where incident energy levels exceed the available PPE ratings.
- Arc flash hazard mitigation: Provides recommendations regarding changes in operating procedures to minimize hazards.
- Arc flash hazard labels: Includes location information, including the acceptable flash hazard boundary distance, shock category, PPE category and incident energy level.
- Documentation: Summarizes the study’s findings into a comprehensive report containing information regarding compliance with regulatory requirements.
Are Arc Flash Studies Required by Code?
While there are no specific codes or standards that specifically identify all the requirements for arc flash safety, every state and jurisdiction in the U.S. does have laws regarding workplace hazards. In general, employers have an obligation to identify and address the hazards at their facilities and job sites.
On a federal level, companies must adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) arc flash study requirements. OSHA abides by NFPA 70E, the industry standard for electrical safety, when determining whether an employer has taken “reasonable” steps to protect workers from arc flash hazards.
When Is an Arc Flash Study Required?
According to the OSHA arc flash study frequency requirements, an employer needs a study if one hasn’t been conducted in the previous three years. Additionally, an employer must have protective coordination and short-circuit studies performed if they have not received one within the past five years.
OSHA also mandates that a study should take place whenever there are changes to the electrical utility or distribution system, or when considering modifications to the distribution system. Other applicable situations for studies are when the employer’s insurance policy is up for renewal or a safety audit is required.
Contact Power Products & Solutions for Arc Flash Coordination Studies
Power Products & Solutions conducts comprehensive arc flash coordination studies for employers throughout the central North Carolina region. All studies are performed by our NETA-accredited technicians who receive annual training to stay current on the latest safety practices and requirements.
Contact us for more information or to schedule a study today.