Arc Flash & Electrical Safety News

Blog Author Steve Hudgik

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Electric Power Conference

Joseph Deane is principal owner of KTR Associates, spoke about arc flash at the Electric Power Conference this morning. Mr. Deane has over 25 years of experience as an Electrical Engineer, Project Manager, and Executive, working in both the industrial and utility business sectors.

The following is an abstract of his presentation:

The NFPA 70E standard was created at the request of OSHA in 1979 to recognize the difference between design and workplace safety. The National Electric Code (NEC) provides the installation (design) standard while the NFPA 70E is the workplace safety standard.

NFPA 70E describes employer responsibilities and recommendations on topics such as employee training, safety-related work practices, tagout procedures, calculating flash protection boundaries and PPE requirements. The current standard recognizes arc flash as a serious hazard and establishes PPE requirements that apply when working around energized equipment.

Why is the NFPA-70E Standard Important? Because following the NFPA-70E standard may save a life. Hazardous arc flashes can occur in any electrical device in which energy is high enough to sustain an arc. The heat exposure due to an electrical arc can produce first-degree burns, permanent blindness, or even death.

In an effort to reduce the extent of potential injuries NFPA-70E specifies boundaries within which flash protection (PPE) is required.

The National Safety Council estimates that an average of more than one fatality a day occurs while working around electrical equipment. Of these fatalities, more than half occurred while working on energized equipment rated 600 volts or below. In addition, five to ten electrical “arc flashes” occur in the workplace everyday. The medical costs for an individually exposed to an electrical arc flash is around $12 to $20 million.

Employers need to include both shock and arc hazard identification in their safety programs.

When working on electrical apparatus (switchgear, panelboards, motor control centers, etc.) the incident energy or available fault current to produce an arc flash needs to be clearly identified on each respective enclosure or piece of electrical equipment. As a part of that label, when employees must work within the flash protection boundary, it is important to include the incident energy. Producing a Flash Hazard Analysis can do this.

Does OSHA recognize the NFPA 70E? Absolutely. OSHA has recently updated their electrical standards to reflect the latest in both the NEC and NFPA 70E standard. OSHA will cite companies for non-compliance with 29 CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(i) which requires the use of protective equipment when working where a potential hazard exists and 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) which requires the employer to provide an assessment of the workplace for hazards and the need for personal protective equipment.

OSHA also utilizes the “General Duty Clause” which states, "each employer shall furnish to each of its employees a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm."

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