Top 7 Arc Flash Safety Measures

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Follow the guidelines for working near or in an arc flash boundary to increase safety

Top 7 arc flash safety measures

One of the major causes of arc flash is a metallic object making contact phase-to-phase or phase-to-ground with energized conductors or circuit parts. That object could be a tool, a part of the equipment or dangling wires that are not secured properly. Another possible cause of arc flash due to an overvoltage condition is voltage transients (spikes) from inductive load switching or lightning strikes. The transient may last only microseconds, but it may also carry thousands of amps of energy. Other causes include things as simple as touching a test probe to the wrong surface, worn connections, gaps in the insulation, improperly installed parts, or dust and corrosion that cause resistance heating.

Here are seven safety measures workers can take to reduce the risk of arc flash:

1. Get trained on safe work practices.

OSHA regulation 29CFR1910.332 and .333 and NFPA 70E require that all qualified and unqualified employees who may potentially be exposed to electrical hazards must undergo training to:

Qualified persons must also receive additional training covering such topics as:

2. De-energize equipment before accessing

3. Conduct regular inspections

Knowing the maintenance history of the equipment in your facility is one of the first steps to preventing an arc flash event. The key to identifying an abnormal reading is to gather baseline readings for especially important components and equipment. Critical components to inspect include electrical connections, insulation, and circuit breakers.

4. Follow the hierarchy of risk control methods when “additional protective measures” are recommended by NFPA 70E.

Do not immediately make the decision to wear PPE. The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E requires that when additional protective measures are required, that the hierarchy of risk control methods be implemented. This would include placing equipment in an electrically safe work condition (elimination) and so forth down the list. PPE is at the bottom of the list and is considered the least effective risk control method.

Wearing the appropriate PPE in conjunction with the other safety measures in Article 130 is critical to minimizing injury in the event of an arc flash incident. In order for the PPE to perform effectively, its arc thermal performance value must meet—or exceed—the thermal energy transfer during the arc flash incident.

5. Select tools rated for the environment

6. Use remote display or wireless test tools

Extend your safety zone with non-contact or wireless test tools. Non-contact test tools allow you to take readings on an energized part without making contact. Wireless test tools enable you to attach the probes or clamp to the measurement target and remove yourself from the arc blast zone to read the results. Some of the most common non-contact and wireless tools for electrical inspections include:

7. Install infrared windows for switchgear inspection

Installing properly certified infrared (IR) windows allows technicians to inspect electrical equipment without removing the panel cover. That makes it easier for companies to comply with NFPA 70E when inspecting switchgear and motors. In selecting IR windows look for:

Arc flash and arc blast are very real dangers in today’s industrial electrical environment. By following best practices, using the proper equipment and staying as far away from energized components as possible you can reduce your risk of those events.

For more information on Electrical Safety, see our online course available at the Fluke eLearning Center. 

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Arc Flash and Arc Blast

Crucial discussions of arc flash and arc blasts, including safety and prevention information.

For more information on Electrical Safety, see our online course available at the Fluke eLearning Center.