Why Perform an Arc Flash Hazard Analysis

Posted on 02. Mar, 2016 by in DIY

An arc flash is the result of a rapid release of electrical energy passed through the air when energised conductors are no longer able to handle the voltage.
If an arc flash happens in a workplace it can often lead to fire, equipment damage and serious danger to employees.
Injuries caused by arc flash include burns, loss of hearing and collapsed lungs and can in some cases be fatal.

Know the risk

arc-underwearWhile an arc flash in the workplace is a rare event the effects can be catastrophic, which is why it is worth considering bringing in the experts to perform an arc flash hazard analysis.

An arc flash hazard analysis is a detailed electrical survey, which maps electrical equipment in a workplace, looks at the proximity of employees and calculates the risk of an arc flash.

Among the calculations are the potential reach of the arc and the distance at which an employee could potentially suffer injuries such as first-degree burns.

In the United States employers are required to carry out Arc Flash Hazard Analysis as part of health and safety regulations. However in the UK and Europe there is no specific requirement to carry out Arc Flash Hazard Analysis.

Nonetheless there are very good reasons why employers may want to consider an arc flash hazard analysis – particularly as the potential consequences of an arc flash are so severe.

Know the dangers

Arc flash usually occurs during the installation of electrical equipment and sometimes during safety testing. The danger of electrical shock is much more commonly understood however the dangers of arc flash can be just as serious, if not more so. An arc flash incident is frequently the result of some kind of human error, which makes it difficult to predict when it might happen. Many people believe high voltage work is more dangerous but working with low voltages can also carry serious danger of arc flash. The dangers may be greater in an older plant, where safety standards have not kept up with technological progress.
Although most electrical work takes place when electrical power is switched off, there are certain jobs which have to be carried out when power is switched on. These include commissioning new equipment, voltage checks and safety checking.

Analyse the risk

Engineers trained in arc flash hazard analysis will create a detailed electrical map of the workplace, including the proximity of electrical equipment to men and women at work. Using mathematical formula, or one of a number of software packages available the assessors will then perform a detailed assessment of the potential dangers posed by an arc flash at different points in the electrical system. When the analysis is complete the electrical engineers will then have a detailed understanding of the weaknesses and potential dangers found in the workplace. Armed with that information the arc flash hazard analysis can be used to minimise the potential dangers.

Minimise the risk

Bringing in electrical engineers trained in arc flash hazard analysis can have great benefits for a business and can significantly reduce risks to health and safety.
Experts in arc flash hazard analysis can provide a precise insight into the risk of arc flash in every part of the network. In some cases the arc flash hazard analysis might suggest implementing safer working practices and staff training to ensure health and safety guidelines are properly followed. Often the analysis will suggest a minimum safe working distance from live equipment.

The completed analysis may also suggest ways equipment can be configured differently to minimise the risk, to adjust protection settings or suggest the inclusion of additional safety features such as override switches or remote switches. There may also be changes to the protective clothing employees are required to wear when performing certain jobs.

A worthwhile investment

An arc flash can be catastrophic in its consequences, leading to damage to property, loss of production and even loss of life. Although UK and European employers are not required to perform an arc flash hazard analysis the potential dangers of an electrical incident of this nature make it something to be avoided at all costs.
Employers do, under European and UK law have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment, which means the benefits of an arc flash hazard analysis are something they should take seriously.

Performing an arc flash hazard analysis and following the recommended changes to health and safety procedure can lead to a significantly safer workplace, as well as reducing the risk of damage to property or loss of production.

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