Property owners (or electrical and safety professionals who work for them) know that they need to see Arc Flash stickers on their electrical equipment.
However, many don’t understand why the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) incorporated 70E standard requirements into the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements back in 2006. Additionally, they may not understand that it’s also a factor in your insurance carrier’s casualty rates for the property.
At OSHA’s request in 1976, the NFPA formed a committee to develop new electrical health and safety standards. The Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, commonly known as NFPA 70E, was published in 1979 and still defines electrical safety criteria.
At the time, burn units admitted approximately 2000 people per year due to electrical faults and arc flash injuries. Clothing fires caused around 80% of these burn injuries. Subsequently, burns to bare skin made up the other 20%, which arc-related clothing should have covered.
If every electrical worker wore arc flash rated PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), it would reduce these burn injuries significantly.
These numbers translate in the US to between five and ten arc flash explosions every day, resulting in severe enough to send victims to the burn center.
Every explosion doesn’t only risk injuries to employees. It causes downtime and equipment damage to the property that is expensive and time-consuming to repair. Over the past decade, the industry has evolved its treatment of energized electrical work and labeling of electrical hazards.
Arc Flash Labels
Most people have seen Arc Flash Hazard warning labels or stickers and understand that electrical equipment requires them. However, many fail to realize that arc flash studies need updates every five years.
Electrical distribution systems change in the workplace as a result of adding new or removing old equipment.
As of November 2011, labels must include the arc flash calculation date and five-year expiration.
Updates are necessary to ensure:
- Proper evaluation of arc flash hazards
- Updated electrical single line diagrams
Every major insurance company that underwrites commercial and industrial property requires facility occupants to have an active electrical safety program. The electrical safety program must include recent NFPA 70E arc flash stickers on their electrical equipment. Further, insurance rates for each property are based in part on the company safety program and demonstrated compliance.
Electrical arc flash accidents generally cause injuries as well as property damage. As a result, they are of significant interest to insurance carriers. Subsequently, companies with robust safety programs enjoy the added benefit of lower coverage costs along with a safer work environment.
Meanwhile, there remains resistance in the industry to complying with the OSHA and NFPA 70E arc flash requirements. Most large organizations have complied, but many smaller companies have put off arc flash labeling.
Common Reasons for resistance include:
- Budget Constraints
- Staffing constraints
- National Electrical Code violations in the electrical system
Further, some companies justify risking violations, fines, or higher insurance premiums due to the decline in electrical failures and injuries.
Despite the reluctance, electrical safety codes are mandatory. Moreover, failure to comply exposes companies and management teams to significant liability from injury lawsuits.
For instance, evidence indicating management willfully neglected safety requirements may provide grounds for prosecution and civil lawsuit.
Simplified Arc Flash Labeling
Having a professional engineer produce labels for traditional short circuit, coordination, and arc flash calculations involves considerable time and costs. As a result, a simplified but compliant process was developed based on an onsite investigation and evaluation by a licensed electrician.
This process, for instance, offers an attractive solution to companies struggling to justify the time and costs for compliance.
Using IEEE 1584 (Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations) incident energy equations, it is possible to compare each piece of electrical equipment in the facility. As a result, labels can be documented and applied in half the time and cost of full-blown electrical engineering studies.
The average manufacturing facility requires less than 500 labels. Therefore, becoming compliant can be as quick as the licensed electrician finding the facility’s electrical equipment.
Don’t Cut Corners
APT has been a trusted service provider in the west coast electrical power business for over 25 years. We pride ourselves on helping customers prevent electrical faults before they happen.
Let us help you get compliant, making your workplace safer for employees. Further, we can demonstrate this effective electrical safety program to your insurance carrier, reducing your property insurance rates. Don’t leave yourself open to liability. Call an APT service professional today.
Our licensed electricians can help your facility become compliant in a few ways.
- Simplified labeling
- Gather information needed for the traditional electrical study calculations by a professional engineer.
Andy Taylor, APT Chief Executive Officer