Avoid Arc Flash Liability

Having equipment that has the potential for an arc flash can put you in a situation where you are potentially liable should something go wrong. It also puts your workers at risk for serious injury. As if these two things were not enough, you could also be in trouble with OSHA if things are not taken care of in a way that mitigates any hazards.

While OSHA has yet to formally adopt an arc flash standard, this does not mean you cannot be in trouble with them if you have no arc flash program. They always have the general duty clause to fall back on. It is the clause often referred to as (5)(a)(1) that states that employers are to provide workplaces that are free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm to employees. Since the arc flash standard implemented by the National Fire Protection Agency, known as NFPA 70e, is an industry recognized standard, OSHA can site employers under the general duty clause by using 70e as a reference. Therefore, they can still write citations for arc flash hazards, even in the absence of an arc flash regulation.

Companies like Predictive Service can provide valuable assistance to companies by conducting an arc flash hazard analysis. This is a study that is done on every piece of equipment to determine the amount of energy that could potentially be released in the event of an arc flash.

After the energy calculations are done through the analysis, the next step is to secure the correct personal protective equipment to protect workers who may be working on live electrical components. Each piece of equipment will be categorized based on the potential energy in terms of calories per square centimeter of energy that could be released in the event of a flash. Based on the numbers, the protective clothing could be anything from flame resistant clothing to fully enclosed suits.

After the analysis is done and the protective equipment is made available, the affected employees should be trained. This is another area in which an outside company may be more effective than trying to do it in house. In either case, the training needs to take place.

It should also be pointed out that the arc flash standard only allows work to be done on live electrical equipment when it is not practical to shut it down. The best way to avoid an arc flash is to kill the power before working on the equipment. It is during troubleshooting, however that it often becomes necessary to work around live components.

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