City of Alcoa Commissions Two Studies to Assess Arc Flash Hazards

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City of Alcoa Commissions Two Studies to Assess Arc Flash Hazards

The city of Alcoa, TN, recently commissioned two studies for their public utilities.

City commissioners want arc flash hazard assessments for both their electric department and the public works and engineering department. Their vote on the issue was unanimous.

From these assessments, they will know whether their utility workers have the appropriate equipment and information (proper arc flash labels) for working with high voltage.

Alcoa Electric Director Ryan Trentham said, “On the power side it’s a lot more common for utilities to do (this study). But it’s a little bit … newer on the public works side.”

The studies are expected to be complete by June.

Arc Flash Incident

In early January, the electric system suffered a significant arc flash. Tennessee Valley Authority metering equipment at the Duncan Substation had malfunctioned. Thankfully, no one was in the area when the incident occurred. However, this equipment failure caused a power outage that affected thousands of customers.

Going in the Right Direction

It is encouraging to know of city commissioners placing importance on assessing risks for their utility workers. We like to hear of steps taken to help protect electrical workers and especially high voltage workers. While all electrical work poses potential risks of shock or arc flash, high voltage work inherently carries a higher risk for debilitating or fatal injuries as a result of an incident.

OSHA 1910.269 Requirement for Utilities

The 2014 OSHA update of 1910.269 made it a requirement for electrical utilities to “make a reasonable estimate of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed” [1910.269(l)(8)(ii)]. Across the country, many utilities are still in the process of meeting this requirement.

OSHA goes on to state that “the employer shall ensure that each employee who is exposed to hazards from flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that could melt onto his or her skin or that could ignite and continue to burn when exposed to flames or the heat energy estimated under paragraph (l)(8)(ii) of this section” [1910.269(l)(8)(iii)].

An arc flash study, using appropriate data collection and approved software like SKM, EasyPower, ArcPro, and others, can yield arc flash data like arc flash boundaries and required levels of arc-rated PPE. Additional data provided includes available fault current, bus voltage levels, etc.

Appendix E of OSHA 1910.269 gives further guidance in this area.

e-Hazard Safety Cycle™

Many components comprise a company’s safety program. e-Hazard has simplified the process with our Safety Cycle™. This process involves Envisioning a plan, Executing that plan, Evaluating its effectiveness, and making changes as needed (Evolving). This process takes the same road whether it is on a company’s Electrical Safety Program, Risk Assessment, Training, Maintenance or Auditing. In addition, we explain how to implement this process for an incident investigation.

Feel free to contact e-Hazard with any questions concerning our Electrical Safety Training and/or Services.

Ken Sellars

Ken Sellars is an instructor of electrical safety, NEC, Grounding/Bonding and Arc Flash Safety courses nationwide. Read more about Ken.

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