While many employers are aware of just how important a consideration arc flash protection really is, remarkably few are undertaking the necessary procedures to identify level of risk and highlight areas of particular hazard. This knowledge gap means that many employers may not be offering adequate on-site protection for their employees, and failing to meet both arc flash responsibilities and legal compliance.
In new research published by electrical component manufacturer Littelfuse, it was found that only a little more than half of the 255 facility managers questioned had completed a full risk assessment; a worryingly low figure considering that of those facilities where a risk assessment had been completed, risk level was found to be high. Additionally, it is understood that one third of those working in areas of arc flash risk had experienced an event in the past, highlighting the importance of adequate protection.
Here are some ways that facilities can work to meet their arc flash responsibilities:
The standard calculation used for determining incident energy is En = K1 + K2 + 1.081 * lgIa + 0.0011 * G, where En is incident energy, K1 is -0.792 (open) or -0.555 (closed), K2 is 0 (ungrounded) or -0.113 (grounded), G is gap between conductors (mm), and la is the predicted three phase arcing current (kA). Risk assessments should be founded in the idea of ‘predict, prevent, publish, protect’ and can be carried out by safety experts.
Fortunately, the Littelfuse report found that almost all workers were familiar with UK safety standards, although only one quarter reported that they had received safety standard training at the workplace. One of the most important things that employers can do to meet their responsibilities is to ensure that everyone on site understands the necessary precautions and procedures needs to create a safe working environment.
While understanding the level of hazard is key to providing a safe working environment, arc flash events can and do happen. Events can be minimised through best practices, but PPE is an essential last resort for protection, and employers should ensure that they are meeting their responsibilities to provide suitable PPE for their workers. Arc flash PPE should meet the UK EN 61482-1-2 standard and have an appropriate ATPV rating.
Arc flash is no joke, and it is essential that facilities managers are doing their part to meet their responsibilities, comply with legislation, and protect their valuable resources.