Electrical Arc Flash hazards in the UK

Over the last few months TAS Engineering Consultants have been conducting a UK survey on the safety hazard of Electrical Arc Flash, in terms of risk awareness, assessment and the protection offered to plant personnel. Electrical discharges and contact with electricity resulted in 11 fatalities and 465 injuries in the UK in 2006/7, according to the HSE, so this is an area where hazard and risk assessment is needed. The TAS results are now published*, and of the respondents, 48%, almost half, had not conducted any risk assessment, which is a requirement of the UK regulations (Electricity at Work Regulations 1989). Not surprisingly perhaps, a key driver in conducting a risk assessment was experience of, or knowledge of, an arc flash incident. More training and awareness is needed, and TAS are taking the best approach they can on this topic by sharing best practice, providing in-house training when requested, and creating an Online Networking Site, where best practice can be shared: this also carries a presentation describing the Arc Flash Hazard and shows the results of some incidents.

The TAS summary of their findings is as follows:

The majority of serious injuries and fatalities from electrical incidents can be attributed to electrical arc blast and its associated effects.

Published figures from the H.S.E website state that in 2006 – 2007 there were 11 fatalities and 465 serious injuries as a result of contact with electricity or electrical discharge.

This research was conducted between May and July 2008, with the respondent job titles as: * Electrical Engineers.

* Responsible Engineers.

* Engineering Managers and Directors.

* Environmental, Health Safety and Compliance Managers.

* Corporate Health and Safety Advisors.

* Safety and Operations Directors.

The reason for conducting this research project was due to the fact that there currently appears to be no definitive, single reference point as to the state of the UK industry opinion, activities and future plans relating to the Electrical Arc Flash Hazard.

The key aim was to share best practice relating to the potentially fatal Electrical Arc Flash Hazard with the UK’s professional engineering and safety management community.

The main findings are that training and awareness is required.

59% of respondents identified their future intentions relating to the Arc Flash Hazard is to ‘learn more and put a plan together’.

Therefore, a sustainable and proactive awareness campaign in connection with this potentially fatal hazard needs to be developed on a national basis via service provider professionals, PPE Manufacturers / distributors, publishers, professional membership associations and conference producers.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) appears to be the initial and primary choice activity of all respondents, to protect their workers from an incident.

The decision for this could fall into three catagories:.

1) As a cost issue – driven by budget restrictions or purchasing departments.

2) Respondents appear to see PPE as a quicker and easier solution to the problem of protecting staff from an electrical arc flash incident.

3) Understanding of an Arc Flash Incident – it’s causes, and the correct procedure to mitigate the risk.

4) Some confusion currently reigns as American standards make the use of PPE mandatory – PPE should be the LAST line of defence to an arc blast in the UK.

Therefore it is in their professional interest of PPE manufacturers and distributors to make clients and prospects aware of the need to conduct an arc flash study and related systems updates prior to calculating their PPE thermal value requirements to protect their workforce.

Arc Flash Risk Assessment Studies:.

* Almost half (48%) of all respondents have not conducted an electrical arc flash assessment on their current systems (58% if the ‘don’t know’ responses are included).

* Of the 33% of the respondents who have conducted an ‘Arc Flash Risk Assessment’ over the last five years, the key drivers for doing so were – in order:.

* Compliance to UK regulations ( Electricity at Work Regulations 1989).

* USA Head Office / Safety Directive.

* In response to an incident – their own or knowledge from another company.

UPDATING OF SYSTEMS RECORDS.

Respondents appear to place the updating of their systems records as a low priority when addressing a possible arc flash incident – this should be placed as a high priority.

The advised route for Engineering and Safety Professionals to protect electrical workers from an incident is:.

* Conduct a thorough Site Survey.

* Conduct Fault Level Study Calculations and Fault Clearance Times to IEC 60909.

* Identify all Protection Gradings.

* Update all Distribution System records.

* Conduct an Arc Flash Assessment to IEEE 1584 standards – by utilising specific arc calculations software, which will identify calculated levels of flame retardant cal.cm2 PPE equipment required.

* Conduct an assessment before contacting PPE manufacturer / distributor.

* Conduct a Switchgear Risk Assessment to HSG 230 guidance.

* Label and Identify Equipment.

* Contact PPE Distributors / Manufacturers to selected products against the cal.cm2 criteria published in the Arc Flash Study report.

* Develop training and awareness of the Electrical Arc Flash Hazard for staff / operators.

For new build and re-designs of Electrical Switch Gear – it is recommended that remote switching is the chosen option – in order to take the operator away from the possibility of an electrical burn at HV.

TAS OFFERING SOLUTIONS.

As a result and in response to the key findings section 9 – ” Learn more about it and put a plan together for 2008″, TAS Engineering is offering solutions to the UK market in four ways.

1) Findings Update Presentations.

To Share Best Practice, offering the presentation of this research document findings, plus an engineering management analysis and summary of the TAS most recent x 15 Arc Flash projects (across numerous sectors) to companies, conference producers and professional associations.

2) In House Training / Awareness Courses.

An Arc Flash Awareness Course is needed – for all operatives, safety and general management who need to understand the causes, effects and impact of an Arc Flash incident.

Engineering the Risk Out – a technical understanding and guidance course for Electrical Engineers who are looking to conduct their own in house arc flash risk assessments.

3) Online Networking Site.

http://www.electricalsafetyforum.co.uk and http://www.arcflashforum.co.uk.

For peer to peer networking and sharing Best Practice.

4) Electrical Engineers Forum.

Small regional road show / networking forums, with supplier and peer presentations, plus mainly facilitated discussions about the attendee’s current electrical safety issues.

The full article is available on http://www.tas.co.uk/news-pressreleases-story.asp?id=36.

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