Where do we start?
There is a lot of great information as well as misunderstanding about arc flash hazards and compliance requirements floating around the internet and water coolers. The goal of this section is to point you in the right direction and give you the informed confidence you need to make the best next step.
What is an arc flash?
A dangerous arc flash can occur when electric current flows through the air in an uncontrolled way resulting in an explosion of heat and energy.
What is the cause?
An arc flash can be initiated by human error such as dropped tools, equipment malfunction, dust, critters, etc.
How can I stay safe?
Electricity is not safe. There are always risks and hazards when working around electricity. The only way to be safe around electricity is to turn it off. However, some work needs to be done on or near electrical equipment and by understanding the risks and hazards, we can take appropriate steps and precautions to go home at the end of the work day.
What is required? Who requires what?
1. Arc Flash Hazard Analysis and Arc Flash Labels
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to identify and communicate workplace hazards and necessary personal protective equipment (Part 1910.132 (d)). An arc flash analysis is required to accurately determine the necessary PPE. There are two key resources that direct how to analyze arc flash hazards:
- NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®
- IEEE Standard 1584: Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations
Arc flash labels are required to communicate the findings of the analysis to personnel
2. Safety Training
OSHA and the NFPA require communicating the hazards through job appropriate safety training.
OSHA requires employers to communicate workplace hazards to employees through regular safety training [1910.132 (d), 1910.332]. OSHA depends on industry accepted standards to further define what safety training is necessary.
NFPA 70E is the industry accepted safety standard that is followed in the United States. Section 110.2(B) states “The type and extent of the training provides shall be determined by the risk to the employee.” It outlines the following safety training specific requirements:
- Training is required for employees exposed to an electrical hazard [120.2(A)]
- Contact release training shall occur annually [110.2(C)(1)].
- First aid, emergency response, and resuscitation shall occur annually [110.2(C)(2)].
- Retraining shall be performed at intervals not to exceed three years [110.2(D)(3)].
- Training should be verified and documented.
- Training is required for “qualified” and “unqualified” persons as necessary for their safety.
- Qualified workers should understand the following [110.2(D)(1)]:
- Precautionary techniques
- Applicable electrical policies and procedures
- Insulating and shielding materials
- Insulated tools
- Test equipment
- Skills and techniques to determine what parts are energized
- Skills and techniques to determine equipment nominal voltage
- Shock safety concepts
- Decision-making processes for the following:
- Job safety planning
- Identify electrical hazards
- Assess associated risk
- Risk control principles, including the use of PPE
“A person can be considered qualified with respect to certain equipment and methods but still be unqualified for others.” [NFPA 70E 110.2(A)(1)(b)]
3. Electrical Safety Program
OSHA and the NFPA require documented safety programs. The safety program should outline what PPE is required, how to perform certain tasks, what preventative maintenance is required, etc.