Arc Flash and switchboard audits
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, employers must take practical steps to safeguard their own employees, contractors’ employees and members of the public in the vicinity of a switchgear. Therefore, asset owners need to ensure their switchgear is safely protected from causing serious harm to anyone operating it or to people nearby.
One of the major hazards from a switchgear fault is an arc flash. This type of event produces intense light, super-heated gases and is accompanied with an arc blast; which is the supersonic shockwave produced when the uncontrolled arc vaporises the metal conductors. Established standards, IEEE 1584 and NFPA 70E, assist with calculating the incident energy produced during an arc flash event and based on that the level of energy the PPE requirements.
While these events are rare they are extreme and can be a significant danger to personnel safety and damaging to the switchboard itself. Each switchboard design and installation is different, as such there are constraints which must be taken into consideration. Through undertaking a switchboard safety audit and, in conjunction with the standards, solutions are provided. These can range from: defining PPE requirements; labelling; protection settings; addition of detection / protection componentry; mechanical hardware; or a combination of any or all of these.