Although the dangers of arc flash have been well-publicized and seem to be well understood throughout the industrial workplace, many companies have not taken any steps to protect people and equipment from the very real threats to life, limb and property that this hazard represents.
The answer is usually “we haven’t gotten to that yet.”
Well, from a safety point of view, from an electrical point of view, from a management point of view and from a legal point of view, if it isn’t “yet” yet, what on earth are you waiting for? Real trouble? Because, there is a distinct probability that real trouble does await those who have not gotten their act together on this issue.
Arc flash is a danger because each incidence will generate a tremendous amount of power. These arcs can easily contact any workers in close proximity to them.
During an arc flash, current passes through ionized air rapidly expelling large volumes of ionized gases, along with molten metal from the vaporized conductors. In the less than 0.2 seconds that the arc may take to run its course, electrical energy continues to be converted into extremely hazardous forms of energy, including: intense heat, thermo acoustic shock waves, molten metal, blinding light, toxic smoke, energized components.
The explosive energy released during arcing faults will send more than 2,000 workers to burn centers this year. An arc flash can occur in any type of plant, and can result from something as simple as a tool accidentally dropped on an energized part.
Other causes include: accidental contact with energized parts; inadequate short circuit ratings; tracking across insulation surfaces; wiring errors; contamination (e.g. dust) on insulating surfaces; corrosion of equipment parts and contacts or improper work procedures. And, as you would expect, using proper procedures, tools and maintenance can prevent most arc flash situations from occurring.
The cost to a business is measured in medical expenses, equipment replacement and downtime. It can be huge. Medical and legal expenses alone can easily exceed $1 million per event. Today, that cost can also include significant fines. OSHA has become much more vigilant, and is using the requirements of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, to judge whether an employer “acted reasonably” in protecting its workers from arc flash hazards.
OSHA imposed fines are only part of the cost to industry and society attributable to arc flash events. Exposure to a serious arc flash incident is often a life changing experience for the person(s) involved. The cost to human life can be incalculable.
Of course, prevention, through the use of the right fuses, is one critical key to avoiding the problem.
Current limiting fuses, from Ferraz Shawmut (IBT is a fully authorized stocking distributor) can either prevent arc flash totally or largely mitigate the effects and lower the likelihood of serious injury.
A Current-Limiting Fuse is a fuse which will limit both the magnitude and duration of current flow under short circuit conditions.
A UL Listed, current-limiting fuse must clear a short circuit current in less than one half cycle. In its current-limiting range, the fuse will melt in the first quarter cycle and prevent the fault current from reaching the first peak of the asymmetrical waveform, tremendously limiting the total electrical energy delivered to the fault.
The trick is to have the correct current limiting fuse. As Ferraz Shawmut puts it: The Right Fuse the First Time, Every Time
Current-limiting fuses reduce the risk of an arc flash occurring – but only if they’re used correctly and consistently.
IBT can implement the Ferraz Shawmut’s inventory analysis and upgrade program to help you minimize the possibility of ordering, stocking and installing the wrong fuse.
An important part of any plant safety program, the inventory analysis and upgrade services take very little of your time, yet they provide you and your facility with lasting benefits.
Here’s what IBT will do:
- Perform a comprehensive review and analysis of your fuse spares inventory using the Ferraz-Shawmut proprietary Fuse Usage & Storeroom Evaluation (F.U.S.E.) software.
- Conduct an onsite inspection of all spares.
- Recommend a plan to upgrade your circuit protection to Amp-Trap 2000® current-limiting fuses that not only improve safety, but provide the Type “2” (No-Damage) protection that safeguards critical plant equipment from damage and less tangible assets like productivity and profitability from costly downtime.
- Use more versatile fuses to consolidate your spare fuse inventory and reduce the number of fuses stocked typically by 25% or more.
- Help you clean up your database.
- Purge your inventory of fuses that are obsolete or no longer needed, organize your storeroom bins and provide clear, informative bin labels.
- Help you develop a plan to better control the flow of spares through your inventory.
- Deliver customized training in fuse selection and safety for your electrical team.
When the study is completed and the plan is implemented, you will have realized a minimum of two benefits: less inventory tied up in miscellaneous, obsolete or obsolescent, mysterious fuses from diverse manufacturers (less money sitting idle) and, equally important, lower risk for dangerous injuries to people and damage to equipment through arc flash events.
The complete arc flash prevention program involves much more than just fuse replacement – although that is at its core.
IBT and Ferraz-Shawmut will hold a seminar, “Arc Flash Mitigation” which will help you understand the hazards, issues, and responsibilities faced by electrical workers and their employers. You’ll learn how current-limiting fuses can play a key role in an effective mitigation program. The seminar will be organized in two one-half day (morning and afternoon) sessions. The morning session, led by a Ferraz Shawmut Field Engineer and a consulting engineer experienced in performing flash hazard analysis and will explore:
- Arcing Faults
- Arc Flash Hazards
- NFPA 70E
- Risk Mitigation With Current Limiting Fuses
- The Flash Hazard Analysis
The second half day session will be led by IBT Safety, and will deal with PPE (personal protective equipment) and other, non-fuse factors involved in arc flash event and personal injury prevention.
The seminar is designed for the benefit of:
- Electrical engineers
- Safety and plant engineers
- Safety managers
- Maintenance supervisors
- Consulting and specifying engineers
The seminar will be held at IBT CDC on Tuesday, November 29, 2005. For more information on the seminar, contact IBT Training.
For more information about current limiting fuses, and the entire line of Ferraz-Shawmut fuses, contact IBT Electrical.
To learn more about the Fuse Usage and Storeroom Evaluation, see your IBT Sales Rep or ask us.