Why should you be concerned about arc flash

The primary reason to be concerned with arc flash is for the safety of the personnel. Short circuits and arc faults are very dangerous and may be potentially fatal to personnel. Exposure to an arc flash frequently results in a variety of serious injuries such as severe burns, damaged eyesight, ruptured eardrums, collapsed lungs, psychological trauma and in some cases - death. Arc flash hazard analysis is required to determine the risk to personnel, to warn them about hazards, and to instruct them as to what kind of personal protective equipment they must wear.

The number two reason to be concerned about arc flash hazards is liability and government regulations. In the United States, OSHA regulations apply to every worker that may approach or be exposed to energized electrical equipment. Failure for an employer to conform and follow OSHA and NEC requirements can lead to employee injuries, fines, penalties, and expensive law suits. There are several regulations that address arc flash hazards in US. They are:

  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 70 known as The National Electric Code. The NEC 2002 addresses the arc flash hazard in Article 110.16 NFPA 70B 2002 Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance.
  • NFPA 70E 2015 Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces
  • OSHA Standards 29-CFR, Part 1910 Sub part S (electrical) Standard number 1910.333.

In Canada, arc flash is addressed legislatively at both the provincial and federal levels. All provincial occupational health and safety acts have a general duty clause requiring employers to take reasonable precautions to ensure their employees' health and safety. Federally, as of 31 March 2004, Bill C-45 established a duty under the Criminal Code of Canada for employers, managers and supervisors to ensure workplace health and safety. Under the code as amended by Bill C-45, there is no specific limit on fines against a corporation that's found guilty, and individual representatives of a corporation can receive a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted of criminal negligence causing death.

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has also implemented new CSA Z462 Workplace Electrical Safety Standard. CSA Z462 is based on the U.S. NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the workplace. Similar to NFPA 70E, CSA Z462 standard provides guidance on the assessment of electrical hazards and design of safe work spaces around electrical power systems. It stipulates requirements for identifying hazardous equipment and for the development of safe work procedures around this equipment and gives guidance to electrical workers on the selection of personal protective equipment and protective clothing.