When it comes to making sure you and your team are not only in compliance, but safe, it can be overwhelming. ErieTec is here to help! We talked with one of Eaton’s training experts on the new NFPA 70B standard and how it impacts your team. We also break down what an arc flash event is and the training opportunities available to keep you and your team safe.
What is Arc Flash?
Arc flash is a hazard associated with electricity, with power. It is an unintentional path of current, that flows through air and back to the source. When looking at this we typically do not look at it on a single-phase perspective. Arc flash is generally viewed as a free phase hazard, meaning it is affixable inside of your commercial industrial site.
What Causes an Arc Flash?
An arc flash can happen in many ways. Say you drop a wrench or screwdriver inside the energized equipment and that screwdriver happens to hit the bus work. This would cause a fall maybe phase to phase, or phase the ground.
After this the screwdriver could disintegrate or bounce away. This can draw an arc, which essentially is more of a spark. However, it is a spark that doesn’t go out by itself. This spark will cause ionized air where it will keep that path flowing and create a ton of energy. This large amount of energy is occurring in a small space. In other words, all the energy that is being released to turn your motor, is now being released inside that arc, or spark.
Most of the energy that is being released is thermal, meaning heat is being dissipated. Not only can heat occur but so can loads of pressure and loud sounds.
Tools being dropped inside the equipment can be a root cause to this, but there are other factors. Other factors can include having an animal inside the equipment, dust and other particles building up inside the equipment.
As there can be many causes of arc flash, you never know when one will occur.
Arc Flash Requirements
OSHA states that we have to protect our employees from known hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm. Arc flash is a known hazard, requiring standards on arc flash. There are requirements around insulating materials and PPE.
In addition to OSHA standard, there are NFPA standards, specifically the 70E. This standard requires PPE to be determined for that arc flash hazard. It does take some engineering to determine how much energy is being released.
From here, OSHA and NFPA 70E make requirements as to what a minimal level of PPE is based on that energy activation.
Arc Flash Training Requirements
NFPA 70E: Employees must be retrained in safe work practices and in any changes to the NFPA 70E standards once every 3 years.
As NFPA 70E requires training every 3 years, there are acceptations around this standard. For example, if you have new equipment in your facility or you have an updated arc flash study. These changes can impact how much PPE a person wears or how much they are wearing. Every time this happens, retraining will need to occur.
Why is Arc Flash Training Important?
OSHA has the ability to cite and fine based on arc flash and if you do not do the calculations, label equipment, or have your employees wear PPE.
However, our biggest concern is our employee safety. We want our employees to return home just as they came to work. Arc flashes can cause fatalities or severe injuries that can cause the person injured to be put into a burn facility.
New Standard Alert
Safety standards are constantly changing around us, and we are here to help you stay in compliance. A new standard that came out in 2023 is the NFPA 70B. This is a maintenance standard around electrical equipment, however, still ties into arc flash. They tie together because 70E requires that equipment is properly maintained. From there you have to apply to see how much energy is going to be released.
If you don’t maintain your equipment, your breaker may not trip and the energy calculation is not going to be valid anymore.
70B informs everybody in the industry on how to actually maintain that equipment. Meaning it has requirements as to how often you should service your breakers, service your switches and service the equipment.
NFPA 70E: establishes safety processes that use policies, procedures and program controls to reduce risk associated with the use of electricity to an acceptable level.
NFPA 70B: details preventative maintenance for electrical, electronic & communication systems & equipment – such as those in industrial plants, institutional & commercial building & large multi-family residential complexes – to prevent equipment failures & worker injuries.
How We Can Help You
Eaton offers various training courses, that are the standard courses. Eaton’s arc flash training focuses strictly on arc flash, the hazard, and the PPE to protect employees from it.
They also have 8-hour classes that has you go into the shop to work. They will address, “How do you choose your insulated gloves?” and “How often do they need to be tested?” and many more.
Eaton offers another course that occurs over a three-day span. In this course they don’t just discuss standard and what you need to do, they include hands on activities. One activity includes having everybody apply routes and verify the absence of voltage. Eaton’s goal is to help everyone understand beyond the standard, by understanding the applications.
As these courses are helpful for everyone, Eaton also offers customized training. Let’s say you have a facility that you are focused on arc flash in medium voltage equipment above 1,000 volts. They will customize a class for you. Whether it is 12 hours, 32 hours, or 40 hours, they will customize it to your needs.
On top of 8 hours classes, Eaton offers 3-day, hands-on activity classes and customized classes. Additionally, Eaton has training trailers that we can arrange to bring directly to you.
Overall, arc flash is not a safety concern to take lightly. Our top priority is to help you keep your employees safe. We work closely with Eaton to offer specific training for all of those in need.
If you have an interest in arc flash training, questions or concerns, contact an ErieTec representative for more details!