Arc Flash Study

By R.W. Hurst, The Electricity Forum

Arc Flash Study

Arc Flash Study Principles

An Arc Flash Study is conducted by a professional electrical engineer to better understand your electrical equipment and how to mitigate any potential arc flash hazard problems.

Far too often, plant electrical systems go through equipment changes without serious attention paid to short circuit levels and hazardous energy within the electrical equipment. Even new buildings and installations are not immune to short circuit problems. The results can be expensive at best, disastrous at worst! Understanding how to conduct a proper study can reduce the risk your company faces and help avoid catastrophic arc flash injury to workers and equipment. In the end, it is all about arc flash electrical safety & equipment reliability.

Only after a study has been completed to determine the proper level of hazard, can engineering revisions be made to your electrical equipment to reduce the arc flash incident energy to manageable and safe levels. But only a proper study and short circuit study can identify the buses with high incident energy levels and only a study can determine the rating of the personal protective equipment really needed at each location in a facility.

Arc Flash 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
  • Arc Flash Electrical Safety audit is required
  • Facility insurance policy is up for renewal
  • Modifications or expansions of electrical distribution system are being considered

An arc flash study is a complicated engineering survey and that is why it is usually performed by an electrical engineer. Preparing for an a study in advance can make the data collection process much easier and the results and analysis more accurate. It’s true that an a study can be time consuming, but an accurately performed a study can improve plant electrical safety by identifying where the most dangerous hazards are located and whether or not plant safety can be improved.

A study usually involves four phases:

  1. Data collection
  2. Engineering analysis of the data,
  3. Report presentation, PPE procurement, and labeling, and
  4. Arc Flash Training.

Of these four phases, only Step 2, the engineering analysis and report preparation, are done off site.

A properly executed Arc Flash Study includes:

  • Complete Study of your electrical panels
  • Single or One-Line Diagram of the electrical distribution panels in your system
  • Labeling of your Electrical Panels with OSHA and ANSI approved warning labels
  • Complete Report of the Study for your records
  • Arc Flash PPE specification report
  • Full Compliance of NFPA 70E and OSHA 1910 Arc Flash Regulations

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