A recent survey conducted by Littelfuse Inc. reveals that arc-flash safety is a priority among plant professionals and that protection technologies such as arc-flash relays are growing in popularity.
Even 10 years ago, arc-flash danger wasn’t at the top of many minds, but today 85 percent of the 825 survey respondents agree or strongly agree that arc-flash mitigation is important. According to OSHA, industrial arc-flash events cause 80 percent of electrically related accidents and fatalities among qualified electrical workers.
Not only has awareness increased; plant managers and company leaders are taking action. More than two-thirds of the industrial professionals surveyed (67 percent) reported completing an arc-flash hazard assessment in their facilities.
Arc-flash hazard assessments have been used to determine the Hazard Risk Category (HRC) of each piece of electrical equipment (a scale of 1-4). Although the NFPA 70E is moving away from HRCs, they remain a well-known classification. More than half of survey respondents reported having significant (HRC 3 or higher) arc-flash hazards and agreed that reducing those hazards is important.
What are the ways employers can reduce arc-flash hazards and keep workers safe? Survey respondents ranked the popularity of solutions, with arc-flash relays standing out as relative newcomers that are being rapidly embraced.
The most popular mitigation technique is current-limiting fuses, followed by arc-resistant switchgear, arc-flash relays and high-resistance grounding. Arc-flash relays, a relatively new solution, are growing in popularity because they rapidly detect the light from an arc and send a trip signal to the circuit breaker to disconnect the power quickly enough to drastically reduce incident energy.
“In an industry that changes slowly, I’ve never seen such a fast adoption of a new technology as I have seen with arc-flash relays,” said Jeff Glenney, P.Eng., of Littelfuse. “Companies feel pressure to reduce arc-flash hazards… Accordingly, many plant managers are adding arc-flash relays to their electrical switchgear and motor control centers.”
Considering that many survey respondents have electrical panels rated HRC 3 or higher, the danger of an arc-flash is real. “The fast adoption of … mitigating techniques will have a significant impact in improving plant worker electrical safety,” Glenney added.