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Electrical Safety Month - Introduction to Arc Flash and NFPA 70E

Arc Flash:

The light and heat produced as part of an arc fault; a type of electrical explosion or discharge that results from a low-impedance connection through air to ground or another voltage phase in an electrical system. According to GE Industrial Solutions, an arc flash event can expel large amounts of deadly energy. The arc causes an ionization of the air, and arc flash temperatures can reach as high as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit – hotter than the surface of the sun.

The risks run high when employees are exposing themselves to live current electricity daily. Most employees aren’t aware of the arc flash risks in their plants until it’s too late – either when OSHA issues a hefty fine or an employee has seriously injured themselves and damaged equipment. According to the NFPA 70E and OSHA standard, there are six primary responsibilities that facilities must meet to remain in compliance with the electrical codes.

Employer Responsibilities Per NFPA 70E

  • Training for employees: NFPA 70E 110.2(D) requires employees to be given additional electrical safety-related work practices every three years. Employees must be retrained before performing any tasks that are performed less often than once per year. NFPA 70E 110.6(E), requires that all training must be documented and employees must show proficiency. Article 100.6 (D)(3) requires that an employee must be retrained or receive additional training:
    • If the supervisor observes, or annual inspections reveal, that the employee is not following the rules and regulations.
    • If new technology, new types of equipment, or changes in procedures necessitate the use of safety-related work practices that are different from those the employee would normally use.
    • If the employee must use safety-related work practices that are not normally use during his or her regular job duties.
  • Written safety program in place that is actionable: NFPA 70E 2018 has outlined a new process for electrical job completion that involves outlining a ‘Job Safety Plan’ to help mitigate electrical risks.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available for employees: NFPA 70E now gives four categories of PPE, with each category containing the minimum arc rating value for the required PPE.
  • Insulated tools: Properly utilizing insulated tools can drastically reduce the risks of an arc flash incident. When purchasing insulated hand tools, safety specialists should look for products that comply with IEC, DIN, or ASTM standards. To ensure your tools follow the OSHA standards it is highly recommended to have a qualified individual inspect your insulated tools before each use.
  • Arc flash hazard degree calculations: Arc flash calculations can tell us about how the system will behave during a fault condition. These calculations also present an opportunity to optimize the system for safety and mitigate risks.
  • Properly labeled equipment: In order to comply with the label requirement of NFPA 70E, you must familiarize yourself with what electrical equipment in your plant needs to be labeled and the elements of a compliant arc flash label.

Arc Flash risks are easily mitigated when you take the proper steps to protect your employees and facilities. Stay tuned for a continuation of this arc flash series where CBT will provide insight into the changed 2018 standards for NFPA 70E, walk you through the elements of a compliant arc flash label, and provide tips and tricks to further reduce electrical injury risks in your plant.

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