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What is an Arc Flash Study? An Electrical Engineer Explains.

As electrical engineer professionals, our job is to keep organizations safe, and arc flashes play a big factor in that role. 

Arc flashes are one risk factor within an electrical safety program. That’s why many manufacturers, hospitals, food processing plants, and other industrial sites conduct what’s called an Arc Flash Study. 

An arc flash study is an analysis completed by a trained electrical engineer to assess an organization’s electrical equipment and power systems for hazard levels of potential arc flash explosions. When the initial results come in, there are a couple ways to move forward:

(A) For equipment with low enough hazard levels that it is unlikely for workers to be significantly hurt by an arc flash, nothing further is necessary other than applying the labels and performing updates as needed.

(B) If a portion of the electrical system shows higher hazard levels, further studies, and risk mitigation methods will need to be completed to ensure worker safety.

The threat of electrical safety hazards is real. Over 30,000 incidents happen per year on average. The sooner you call on the services of an electrical engineer, the better, especially if you haven’t yet committed to an Arc Flash Study at your workplace. 

Continue reading to learn more about arc flash studies and how they work. 

Worried about arc flashes? Hire an arc flash expert like Herzig Engineering to complete an arc flash analysis. Request a quote for your own arc flash analysis. Or call (816) 734-8300. 

Why Do I Need an Arc Flash Study? Is it Required? 

Is an arc flash study required? Yes, it is! According to OSHA 1910.132(d), 1910.335(a)(1)(i), employers are required to assess the workplace, identify electrical hazards to ensure a safer workplace, and train qualified employees on proper usage of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Arc flash studies help provide the necessary information to protect the workers in the area from events like dangerous electrical explosions that kill over 400 people per year and injure over 30,000 workers. 

The NFPA provides some reasoning as to why it’s needed. One is “to estimate the potential severity of injury or damage.” 

How is an Arc Flash Study Performed?

An Arc Flash Study should only be performed by qualified and experienced electrical engineers. In other words, this isn’t a study you can carry out alone unless you have the qualifications to do so.

You should call on the services of somebody knowledgeable in this field, such as our engineering team at Herzig Engineering. 

The Steps in an Arc Flash Study 

Here are the common steps that happen if you hire a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) to complete an arc flash study:

  1. Data Collection. A technician or engineer will gather data from the client’s facility/site in a format to be entered into a computer program and modeled. This information requires access to electrical equipment, although it does not mean the equipment needs to be shut down or powered off. A trained and responsible electrician can gather this data without interruptions to operations.
  2. Computer Modeling. Utilizing electrical engineering software(s), such as SKM PowerTools, engineers model one-line drawings and run reports with the most current calculations.
  3. Review. Making sure that everything checks out is of the utmost importance when performing an arc flash study, as safety is paramount. A reputable provider will include the client in their review process to verify the integrity of the data and confirm that the electrical model is correct.
  4. Labeling. Labels are the part that ties everything together. Without labels, you effectively do not have an arc flash study completed. The labels provide pertinent information on the hazard and must be followed closely to maintain the safest work environment.
  5. Reports. At the end of it all, the client will receive a final report containing various bits of information generated from the study, as well as one-line drawings signed by an engineer. These drawings go hand-in-hand with the labels to capture and display necessary data about the study. 

Data collection is a crucial part of any arc flash study. Without accurate data, it would be impossible to accurately assess the risks associated with arc flash incidents. 

Switchgears, transformers, and other electrical equipment operating at 208V and above would be included in a typical arc flash study. Once all potential electrical equipment has been identified, the next step is to gather data on the equipment.

Data is collected by opening the equipment to view how it is installed and analyze the information. The data collected is then used to create a model of the arc flash hazard.

The accuracy of this data collection process is dependent on the technician being able to access all pertinent equipment and collect the information. If a piece of equipment is in a location where the personnel isn’t allowed or able to get into for some reason, the information will have to be provided some other way.

Request a no-obligation arch flash quote from Herzig Engineering by clicking here or calling (816) 734-8300.

How Often Does an Arc Flash Study Need to Be Done?

You should complete an arc flash study every five years, according to NFPA 70E (2021 version is cited, and most current), Section 130.5(G), and 130.5(H). 

Both state that “the data shall be reviewed for accuracy at internals not to exceed 5 years.” That time frame is to, at a minimum, account for possible changes in the utility contribution that could modify the results of the study. The labels should be replaced if the incident energy increases or decreases when compared to the original study.

Section 130.5(G) specifically mentioned, “The incident energy analysis (arc flash study) shall be updated when changes occur in the electrical distribution system that could affect the results of the analysis.”

Those changes could be as simple as purchasing a new machine to replace an older one, which is relatively minor and would only affect that one piece.

Something like switching out the entire switchgear could affect everything in the system and would have to be analyzed on a greater scale to capture the changes.

Who Can Perform an Arc Flash Analysis? 

Realistically, anyone can perform the calculations using computer software. Just because it is possible does not mean it is plausible! A licensed and experienced electrical engineer should perform an arc flash study.

There are a few different methods of calculating arc flash ratings, but the IEEE-1584 guide is the industry standard and is the most well-rounded for general industrial applications.

At Herzig Engineering, we are fully trained and qualified to carry out arc flash studies and are committed to the safety of workers within Missouri and across the country. Request a quote for your own arc flash analysis by clicking here or calling (816) 734-8300.

How Much Does an Arc Flash Study Cost?

An arc flash study can cost $12,000 or up to the high six-figure range, depending on the facility. Not all studies are made the same, so make sure you have conversations with a quality electrical safety provider. 

Pricing varies depending on a number of factors. The size of the facility, amount of equipment, accessibility of the location’s equipment, and travel considerations are all things that influence pricing. A 25,000 square foot warehouse in an urban area would cost less than a 1,000,000 square foot manufacturing operation in a rural area. 

At Herzig Engineering, we offer fair and competitive pricing for arc flash studies. Request a no-obligation quote here or call (816) 734-8300.

Are All Arc Flash Studies the Same?

Not all arc flash studies are performed equally. The incident energy analysis method is the most comprehensive method and takes significantly more time than simply providing an “ARC FLASH HAZARD” label for each piece of equipment. Proper labeling methods should provide information on what the arc flash hazard is and guidance on PPE/approach boundaries.

The discrepancy between “levels” of study is based largely on the scope of work being performed, as well as the size of the company providing it. Logistical factors, like travel, will also be accounted for where needed but should not be a concerning factor in the decision of your vendor.

Summary

Act now and do what you can to protect your business and the people that work within it. Provide training, consistently perform risk assessments, find ways to protect both your electrical equipment and your employees, and if you haven’t yet done so, book an arc flash study. 

At Herzig Engineering, we provide electrical safety consulting, training, and system studies to reduce risk and create a safer, more efficient workplace.

By completing an arc flash study with us, you’ll avoid expensive fines & fees, reduce risk & increase output, and keep employees safe & happy. 

Request a quote today by clicking here so you stay compliant!