Arc flash is one of the leading causes of fires in industrial settings. It is also one of the potentially most disastrous. Arc flash can lead to major explosions where molten metal shrapnel can fly through the air, causing immeasurable damage to the space and even injuring or killing workers. Arc flash is the result of an electrical current passing through the air with not enough insulation between electrified conductors to hold the amount of voltage present. Arc flash can potentially lead to fires, flying objects, potentially life-threatening injuries, and large amounts of property damage. Arc flash is most often caused by human error, although there are instances when it is caused by environmental issues or equipment failure. Most of the causes are preventable and can be closely monitored. Check out this guide below on the most effective ways to reduce arc flash incidents at your job site.
Reduce the available fault current
An electrical fault current is the current that flows through a circuit that is considered to be an abnormal current. Electrical fault currents are what cause arc flash when they flow through the air between two live conductors. This is called a short circuit and can result in arc flash energy because it typically results in a much larger current than the one that typically flows in non-fault conditions. Reducing the available fault current cuts down on the size of the fault current when it occurs, limiting the possibility of arc flash. There are a few methods to reduce the amount of fault current in facilities and sites using non-current limiting breakers (NCLBs). The facilities can use open tie operations during maintenance, use high-resistance grounding systems so there is a proven path for around current that can help deflect faults, and employ current limiting reactors which limit the short circuit current available, meaning that less energy is released during fault conditions. Reducing the available fault current also reduces the amount of arc flash that can form.
The majority of arc flash that occurs is due to human errors. Most of these errors can be reduced or even eradicated by providing workers with proper training in their area and in general safety. Many human error causes of arc flash could be prevented by providing training and safety gear. When workers don’t fully understand the potential repercussions of cutting corners or not double-checking their work, they are more likely to make mistakes. Encourage workers to double-check their work every time, especially with electrical work. Providing regular training and reminding employees that even seemingly simple mistakes can lead to arc flash can greatly reduce your facility’s risk. Many times, the most experienced workers end up making mistakes that lead to arc flash because of their confidence and experience; thus, reminding them to lead the newer workers by example and always double-check their work is a great way to increase the attention to detail in a crew. Hosting monthly refreshers and offering access to ongoing safety courses is a great way to encourage employee safety and help workers to take ownership of their work.
Clean and service equipment
When dust and debris accumulate at a work site or facility, which is only natural over time, the environment becomes more prone to electrical current interruptions. Cleaning and dusting your work site frequently can help reduce the risk of arc flash. Dust and debris build-up commonly happens on large machinery, which is why it’s extra important to pay attention to the heavy machinery and large pieces of equipment. These machines and pieces of equipment most likely use a great amount of electricity or even operate in areas where electrical work is being completed, making it even more crucial they are cleaned.
Another way to reduce arc flash incidents at a facility or job site is by regularly servicing the larger machinery and pieces of equipment. When large machinery is functioning improperly, it can malfunction and cause arc flash in the facility. All machines and pieces of equipment should be given regular servicing, especially those that function in areas where electrical work is done, as these pose an increased risk. When there is less dust and debris present, there is a reduced chance of arc flash occurring.
Employ arc flash consultants
Arc flash consultants are the best option when you want to reduce arc flash incidents at your facility or job site. Arc flash puts the health and safety of workers at risk, in addition to putting industrial equipment at risk as well. Employing experienced arc flash consultants at your facility or job site can help to give your business peace of mind while ensuring the company is fully compliant with OSHA. OSHA sets strict guidelines when it comes to mitigating arc flash risks. An arc flash consultant will help you understand the current risk of arc flash at your facility or job site and conduct tests so you know how much electricity workers could be exposed to in a worst-case scenario. An arc flash assessment typically consists of a detailed site walk-down, software of your choice to find potential options for electrical power system analysis, an electrical coordination analysis to check site safety, a short circuit analysis, an arc flash analysis report, and arc flash labels. Investing in arc flash consultants for your facility is an investment in both your workers and your business. A safe and productive work environment is key to a successful business.
For all of your facility and job site concerns regarding arc flash, consider a well-trained and highly experienced arc flash consultant or arc flash study from Dreiym Engineering, one of the leading electrical consulting companies. Our experienced team of arc flash consultants can conduct the necessary tests to help your business ensure its workers’ and equipment’s safety by identifying and reducing the risk of arc flash at your facility. A safer and more productive work environment starts with an arc flash consultation that provides your company with a deeper understanding of the specific arc flash risk at the facility and comes up with the best prevention methods possible.