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Understanding Arc Flash: ANSI Members Team on New Collaborative Research Project

New York, Feb 26, 2008

A flash of bright light sends molten metal and intense radiant heat blasting outward, throwing workers into the air and destroying equipment. This may sound like a pivotal scene in the latest blockbuster movie, but it is a description of an arc flash event, a serious hazard that electrical workers face every day.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – both members and accredited standards developers of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – have teamed on a new initiative to fund and support research and testing to increase the understanding of the arc flash phenomenon.

The IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research Project is expected to provide information that can improve electrical safety standards, predict the hazards associated with arcing faults and accompanying arc blasts, and provide practical safeguards for employees in the workplace.

In addition to building an understanding of what is known about arc flash events worldwide, the program will involve more than 2,000 test protocols. These will measure the thermal, pressure, sound, shrapnel, toxicity, and radiative phenomena generated in arc flashes, as well as how enclosures affect the energy released.

The project team’s work effort will build upon a number of American National Standards that are already in place to protect electrical workers from arc flash hazards:

  • NFPA 70-2005, The National Electrical Code (NEC), which contains requirements for arc flash warning labels;

  • NFPA 70E-2000, Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces, which provides guidance on appropriate practices to safeguard workers from injury while working on or near exposed electrical conductors or circuit parts that could become energized; and

  • ANSI/IEEE 1584-2002, Guide to Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations, a standard that provides techniques for determining the arc flash hazard distance and the incident energy to which employees could be exposed during their work on or near electrical equipment.

To learn more about the IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research Project, visit the website or download the brochure.

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