Are you doing enough to protect your personnel and plant?
A high percentage of electrical injuries are the result of Arc Flash incidents, often compounded by not wearing the appropriately rated PPE. Burns due to extremely high temperatures, plasma flying uncontrollably at incredible speeds and destructive pressure waves put personnel at risk of serious injury or death.
Research would suggest that worldwide there are more fatalities from Arc Flash related incidents than electrocution, which has predominantly been thought to be the highest risk. Due to the extremely high energy dissipated from Arc-Flash incidents, serious injury or death can also occur at long distances from the actual event, which increases the risk level further. Companies need to seriously understand the risk to personnel and plant and take action to mitigate that risk.
In addition to the serious risk to personnel, is the potential cost of damage to plant, lost production time, legal implications and significant fines for failing to adequately protect employees from risk. Although regulated in the USA and Europe through international standards for many years, Australia is yet to formally regulate and standardise Arc-Flash hazard mitigation strategies and control measures, however, it is only a matter of time.
More progressive Australian companies who understand the seriousness of Arc Flash incidents have adopted the arc flash methodology indicated by IEEE 1584:2002 with nominated PPE in accordance with the NFPA 70E standard. In addition, those companies who complete arc flash studies, maintain the ongoing accuracy of their electrical system model to immediately understand the impact to changing, modifying or increasing plant/assets over time. That said, AS3007:2013 (clause 15.1 (J)) does specify the requirement to define arc flash energy levels and to advise that personal protective equipment is required when performing any work in the proximity of switchgear.
Older installations are certainly at a higher risk as older designs may not have considered arc flash/short circuit calculations and, even if they did, chances are the plant has been completely modified since the initial design due to obsolescence/growth etc.
It is also a common misconception that Arc Flash hazards are more common with High Voltage systems. Low voltage systems can have very high arc energy levels and the higher probability of arc flash is in low voltage.
The fact that Arc Flash incidents are continuing to occur in Australia would suggest we have a long way to go. Controlling electrical hazards through the implementation of standards and effective Arc Flash mitigation strategies is the only way to ensure an incident free workplace.
If you have concerns or would like to seek professional advice on your Electrical Distribution system, please contact one of our Professional Engineers. Our experienced team can provide you with a solution and have the latest power system modelling and analysis tools such as ETAP, Power Factory and SKM.
Call us on 08 9244 4477 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information and advice.