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Can The Risk of Arc Flash Be Mitigated By Using Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices [EMSDs]?

Since an Arc Flash accident occurred at your workplace recently during an open panel electrical inspection, the safety officer has been conducting safety trainings for the employees. You read a previous article titled “What Is An Arc Flash?” to educate yourself on Arc Flashes and the hazards associated with them when they occur. The safety officer recently formed a team to search for solutions that could minimize or reduce the risk of an Arc Flash from occurring again during an inspection. You joined the team and are ready to work on the project.

As a review, an Arc Flash is an energy discharge of light and heat that forms when a fault occurs in an electrical circuit. The arcing results in a tremendous amount of energy being released as current flowing through ionized air. Hazards associated with an Arc Flash are flying molten shrapnel, extreme temperatures, sudden air expansion causing blast pressure waves and hearing loss; all leading to severe injuries or even death

Safety Precautions

During a team meeting, the safety officer presented the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publication titled 2018 Edition NFPA 70E which puts forth new and revised regulations to protect workers from hazards that can cause injury or death. See a past article on these new regulations that describe a “Hierarchy of Controls” for establishing safe working procedures. The team reviewed the Hierarchy of Controls which is implemented in a sequential progression starting with the following:

1. Elimination of the Risk

2. Substitution

3. Engineering Controls

4. Awareness

5. Administrative Controls

6. Personal Protective Equipment

Most electrical equipment must be inspected under “full load” to obtain accurate infrared and ultrasound data; therefore, de-energizing the equipment and elimination of the hazard is not possible for these inspections. The safety officer moved to the next level in the hierarchy – substitution. Can the hazard be replaced with something that does not produce a hazard but still enable inspections to be performed on fully loaded electrical assets? You immediately remember reading an article explaining the utility of Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices.

EMSDs Reduce Arc Flash Risk

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You being to share knowledge about EMSDs, what types of EMSDs are available and, why companies are adopting these devices:

* Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices [EMSDs]

EMSDs maintain an energized compartment’s closed and guarded condition during an inspection process thereby reducing the hazards for the inspector. Some EMSDs add efficiency and safety to the inspection process while others provide continuous monitoring to detect problems earlier. Examples of EMSDs are Infrared Inspection Windows, Ultrasonic Inspection Ports and Detectors, Online Monitoring Systems and Intelligent Asset Tags.

* Why are Companies Adopting EMSDs?

Electrical systems have become more complex and as such, companies recognize the need for more frequent inspections to find faults before the system fails completely causing a costly downtime. EMSDs also minimize the hazards associated with electrical inspections such that these inspections can be performed more frequently and efficiently.

Conclusion:

After you explain what EMSDs are and why companies are adopting them, your team determines the next step would be to perform a Criticality Assessment of every asset to determine what types of EMSDs would be required for inspections. The team has more work to do to ensure that the risk of another Arc Flash at the workplace is mitigated.

Reducing Arc Flash Risks with Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices

Electrical accidents, such as arc flashes, happen daily; however, there are ways companies and individuals can reduce the occurrence of these accidents and protect everybody concerned from the physical, financial, and statutory consequences. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regulation 70E provides a reference for facilities to meet the requirements of electrical workplace safety while regulation 70B outlines the best practices for setting up and maintaining and Electrical Preventive Maintenance (EPM) program.

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