Arc Blast Program

By R. W. Hurst, The Electricity Forum

An Arc Blast Program is developed by a company in an effort to protect it's workers from exposure to arc flash incidents.

A comprehensive Arc Blast Program is designed protect electrical workers from arc flash incidents which could cause personal injury and possible death. It includes: an arc blast assessment; and recommendation of Personal Protective Equipment.

An arc blast program dictates what your company must do to comply with the National Fire Protection Association guidelines (NFPA 70E, Chapter 1,11 8 (B)(1) (b), 130.3, and 130.7 (C) (9) (a)) that are being enforced by Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The assessment could include: Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) category requirements, labeling recommendations , potential arc flash incident energy levels, determination of protection boundary distances, as well as NFPA 70E interpretation and the application of OSHA requirements to your workplace.

An Arc blast program study should result in a recommendation to choosing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for worker safety.

  • Personal protective equipment recommendations for employees working on your electrical distribution equipment
  • PPE recommendations are based on NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces,Chapter 1, Article 130 Edition; and, IEEE Standard 1584, Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations
  • Short-circuit and protective coordination
  • Facility electrical single-line diagram

Arc Blast Study Considerations:

  • A study has not been performed in the past three years
  • Short-circuit, protective coordination studies have not been performed in the past five years
  • Changes have occurred to electrical distribution system or electric utility system
  • Safety audit is being required
  • Facility insurance policy is up for renewal
  • Modifications or expansions of electrical distribution system are being considered

A Program should include:

  • PPE recommendations presented in clear, tabular format
  • Written report of findings and recommendations
  • Optional power equipment labels listing PPE recommendations (for attachment to existing enclosures)
  • Optional color-coded single line diagram showing PPE recommendations (for posting in electrical rooms)
  • Optional onsite electrical safety training for electrical workers

So, with all of this information, why do we continue to minimize or ignore electrical safety hazards? Culture seems to play an important role in the perpetuation of these arc flash incidents. The OSHA regulations require employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm to the worker. It is amazing that workers exposed to electrical hazards are not provided the same consideration for their safety and protection as other types of work tasks. For example, workers do not handle harmful chemicals without proper personal protective equipment, but at the same facility the company may expect a worker to perform hazardous electrical tasks without proper protection. Why is there a double standard? The recovery process from this type of injury is long, painful, and, in many cases, the patient is disfigured and has some level of permanent disability. In the human resources aspect of this, the worker’s life is forever altered. This includes his ability to earn a living, have normal physical activities, and in some cases even his relationship with his loved ones is changed forever.

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