Arc Flash Risk Assessment and PPE

Written

When addressing electrical safety there is sometimes the perception – I just need training or I just need arc flash labels or I just need to know what PPE to purchase.

It’s crucial to understand that each of these tasks can only protect against electrical hazards when used as part of a task and location based risk assessment.

Electrical risk assessments, like any other risk involves the staged approach of

  • Risk Identification
  • Risk Analysis
  • Risk Evaluation
  • Risk Control

Each of these stages require different competencies and skills.

Electrical risk hazard identification needs competent electrical engineers as well as trained occupational health and safety experts both working together. Understanding the operation and function of electrical equipment is an essential element of being able to understand the risk associated with it.

Risk analysis and evaluation of electrical hazards has developed significantly in recent years with regularly updated standards and guidelines. Advances with modelling software’s for power systems analysis have also evolved, particularly for the analysis of arc flash hazards.

The aim of an arc flash risk assessment is to integrate

  1. Safety related work practices
  2. The arc flash boundary and incident energy
  3. The PPE to be used
  4. Equipment labeling
  5. Task specific working distance

In determining the PPE requirement an incident energy analysis or NFPA70E PPE category method is necessary. The NFPA70E category method is quite prescriptive in terms of boundary limits and equipment type, maximum fault clearing times, maximum short circuit current, and so has very limited applicability. This is recognised in the NFPA70E Standard, which states that an incident energy analysis will be necessary for tasks and/or systems which do not correspond with the PPE category method. As a result the incident energy analysis method can be used in more general power systems and can be applied to tasks with less than the minimum working distance.

Indeed, the use of PPE as a risk control should be the final step of the process.

Risk Control itself should be implemented according to a hierarchy in the General Principles of Prevention in the Safety, Health and Wefare at Work Act 2005 in ROI and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 in the UK (2000 in NI) as follows:

  1. The avoidance of risks
  2. The evaluation of unavoidable risks
  3. The combating of risks at source
  4. The adaptation of work to the individual…
  5. The adaptation of the place of work to technical progress
  6. The replacement of dangerous articles, substances or systems of work by safe or less dangerous articles, substances or systems of work.
  7. The giving of priority to collective protective measures over individual protective measures.
  8. The development of an adequate prevention policy in relation to safety, health and welfare at work, which takes account of technology, organisation of work, working conditions, social factors and the influence of factors related to the working environment.
  9. The giving of appropriate training and instructions to employees.

 

Avoidance is often not reasonably practicable, and so the evaluation of unavoidable risks requires competent electrical engineering input.

Delving into the introduction of engineering controls usually present a range of possibilities, including protection setting changes, reduce available fault current, deploy arc flash relays and detection tools, updating switchgear, operate with different feeds during maintenance, remote switching and racking systems.

Engineering solutions need to be implemented in a controlled and managed way and may be quite expensive. For maximum risk control and cost effectiveness these measured should be assessed by experienced design and electrical engineers with the predicted risk reduction completed by power systems modelling.

Awareness and administrative controls include equipment labelling, operator training, and implantation of safety procedures. Competencies required here include equipment knowledge, training skills, understanding of requirement and clauses relating to accurate and useful safety procedures. Above all the practical experience which comes with years of experience with implementing such risk controls is invaluable.

Finally the use of the correct PPE for the task and for the location is seen as the final control measure. Indeed, PPE is seem as the last line of defence and in terms of control measures should be viewed as such.

It is important when addressing arc flash and indeed any electrical safety hazard that the right competencies and used and used as part of an overall risk assessment.

It is not just about an arc flash hazard study, labels or indeed training. It’s about all of these parts assessed together as part of a hazard risk assessment.

 

Premium Power’s Electrical Safety Programme has been developed as an effective programme providing all the competencies and experience required to fulling address electrical safety hazards including arc flash.

 

 

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