Electrical Studies are Necessary Preventative Measures

While snap, crackle, and pop are fine sounds for your breakfast cereal, they can also be an unfortunate reality if an electrical distribution system is not designed to safely handle a short circuit. An electrical distribution system is typically designed to safely handle a short circuit when equipment covers are in place and doors are closed. A short circuit study is performed during project design, and results are used to design a safe electrical distribution system.

During routine inspections, or in the event of an emergency, the electrical distribution equipment may need to be opened while it’s energized. If a short circuit occurs during that time, a hazardous explosion – called an arc flash – can cause injury or even death. To determine how significant the arc flash could be, an arc flash study can be performed to map a building’s electrical distribution system. Calculations derived from a study determine the amount of personal protection equipment required for someone to safely work on energized equipment.

While the arc flash concept has existed for years, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has only recently recognized requirements in NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace as standard industry practice for building owners. Owners are encouraged to determine their buildings’ electrical distribution system arc flash energy and develop precautionary safety procedures. This is especially relevant for healthcare facilities and other mission-critical facilities that cannot de-energize electrical equipment during inspections.

KE has provided arc flash studies at facilities for companies such as Republic Steel, NASA, and MedCentral Health System, using industry-standard software programs, such Easy Power and SKM Systems Analysis. Results of the software programs are analyzed, and recommendations are provided to facility owners regarding adjustments to existing equipment, safely maintaining equipment, and proper labeling of potential hazard levels for equipment.

A coordination study is another method of reducing electrical equipment damage and operational downtime. The goal of a coordination study is to reduce effects of a short-circuit fault by verifying operation of the overcurrent protective device closest to the fault. This way, if a fault occurs, it is cleared. Our engineers use industry-standard software to evaluate each overcurrent protective device and produce a report recommending adjustments to device settings and/or potential changes to electrical equipment.

Each study – short circuit, arc flash, and coordination – provides significant value by allowing an electrical system to be correctly designed and safely maintained, thereby limiting possible adverse effects on an electrical distribution system.


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