What Is An Arc Flash Study?

By R.W. Hurst, The Electricity Forum

What Is An Arc Flash Study

What Is An Arc Flash Study?

A professional electrical engineer conducts an Arc Flash Study to understand better your electrical equipment, and the study best determines how to mitigate any potential AF 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 and disastrous at worst! Understanding how to conduct a proper study can reduce your company's risk and help avoid catastrophic AF injury to workers and equipment. Ultimately, it is all about AF electrical safety & equipment reliability.


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Only after an arc flash study has been completed to determine the proper hazard level 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. Only an investigation can determine the rating of the personal protective equipment needed at each location in a facility.

Arc Flash Study Considerations

  • An arc flash 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 the electrical distribution system or electric utility system
  • AF Electrical Safety audit is required
  • Facility insurance policy is up for renewal
  • Modifications or expansions of the electrical distribution system are being considered

If you want to learn what is an arc flash study, you have to know it is a complicated engineering survey, so an electrical engineer usually performs it. However, preparing for an examination in advance can make the data collection process much easier and the results and a study more accurate. A study can indeed be time-consuming. Still, an accurately performed study can improve plant electrical safety by identifying the most dangerous hazards and whether plant safety can be improved.

A study usually involves four phases:

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

Of these four phases, only Step 2, the engineering study and report preparation, is 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
  • AF equipment labelling fault with OSHA and ANSI-approved warning labels
  • Complete the Report of the Study for your records
  • AF personal protective equipment ppe specification report
  • Full Compliance with NFPA 70E and OSHA 1910 AF Regulations


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