Having an arc flash study performed on your electrical system is a big step towards keeping you and your employees safe and staying in compliance with OSHA requirements. One of the biggest reasons to have an arc study performed is to stay in compliance and not get shut down while other reasons may include following corporate policy, certifications and insurance requirements. However, the main reason should always be to keep the working environment a safe one. An arc flash study is very labor intensive and includes many steps. Each of the steps build on top of each other to create an overall picture of the electrical distribution system. There are many benefits beyond safety that an arc flash study will provide.
The first step for the study includes a lot of data collection. This information contains data of each electrical device in the facility for the maintenance personnel and engineers to go through. Some of the electrical devices that will be looked at include the transformers, breakers, cables and fuses. In many cases, the maintenance teams never have enough resources or time to catalog this information themselves without outside help.
Arc Flash Drawings
After all of the data is collected and reviewed, an arc flash drawing is drawn up. The drawing will be a map of the electrical system starting at the main utility transformer and will go down to all of the mechanical disconnects and branch panel boards. This drawing ensures that any current problems can be addressed quickly and any future changes can be easily updated by following the map.
Arc Flash Calculations
This is the step where all of the data collection and map drawing is put to work to calculate any hazards in each electrical device. This step is very important because two key points of information are discovered. These two points include the PPE level necessary to work on each device and the incident energy. The benefits of this also includes providing information about the minimum required amount of protection needed to work safely. It also enables workers not to have to inconvenience themselves by being overprotective. Without the data collection, workers would constantly be overestimating risk factors and sometimes underestimating the risk factors.
Coordination And Mitigation
These steps are where the safety plans are set into place. The coordination involves identifying circuits in the electrical distribution system which aren't working properly. During the mitigation analysis, hazards are identified and plans to reduce them are set. In many cases, the coordination and mitigation hazards can be corrected with just a few simple changes to the upstream breaker system. In some cases, however, new equipment is necessary to get the hazards under control. In either way, these are done to make the electrical system more efficient and safe.
The last step in an arc flash study is label installation. Each electrical device is labelled with a tag that identifies its hazard level. It will also indicate the shock and arc flash boundaries which are needed in order to determine if any work can be completed while the components are energized or not. Also, it will indicate what PPE and precautions should be taken into consideration.
Most arc flash studies will include some comprehensive arc flash training at the conclusion. This is essential for all employees and maintenance teams to be fully informed and knowledgeable about the electrical systems. The training and survey should always be conducted by a competent and reliable company such as with arcflashtraining. Their training is designed not just to raise an awareness about electrical system safety, but also to show the incentives of practicing safe electrical habits.