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Understanding Arc Flash

  • Aug 19, 2020, 10:39 AM

Let’s simplify the NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

Questions I am often asked about Arc Flash and the 2018 publications are.

  • Who is responsible for providing PPE for the electrical worker?
  • Who provides the training as required by this publication?
  • How do I know what to wear for arc flash, because of the different levels possible?
  • Whose responsibility is it to utilize the training and PPE provided.

These and many more questions, often come up when I am teaching a class. The NFPA 70E is a code driven document, that often changes every three years. It is imperative that the employer provide this to all personnel that will be doing electrical work, because it is the responsibility of the employer to provide training, and suitable PPE for electrical work to protect all employees.

It is very important that the employee use this information, and PPE to mitigate the risk for each task. But this is part of the picture, there is a lot more to this process. Notice I said process, because this is an ever changing, and not a one and done task.

No training or PPE can protect the electrical worker if they do not know the potential risk, so part of the NFPA 70E is risk assessment, as well as arc flash assessment. These two go hand in hand, to make sure the electrical worker is wearing the proper level PPE and preparing for the risk.

Then, its important to have a road map, (the panel label) to show them how big the risk is. Once an arc is created, it's too late to be thinking about what PPE you should be wearing.

Risk assessment should be done before the work begins: understanding the task, inherent risk, and determining the proper equipment and PPE. However, none of this can be done until an arc flash assessment has been done plant wide. The arc flash assessment will calculate the potential for electrocution, arc flash, arc blast, and distances that nonelectrical workers should maintain to stay safe.

Arc Flash LabelPanels are labeled according to the calculations. The label should contain distances that unqualified people cannot cross, distances that qualified people must wear proper PPE, Cal rating, so you know what level of PPE to wear, and the arc flash boundary where a barrier should be placed so non-qualified workers cannot enter.

Understanding Arc Flash can be overwhelming at times, but developing a plan is the first step.

Let us help. Contact SMC for an arc flash assessment or for information regarding upcoming NFPA 70E Arc Flash training.



~Glenn Pilger, SMC Industrial Safety Specialist