Arc Bites: Defending Against the Jaws of Arc Flash with Equipment Maintenance

“There's not an electrician in the world that can walk up to a gray panel and say, oh, it looks like the incident energy for this piece of equipment would be about… let's call it a seven. You don't know. You've got to do a coordination study. You need to understand what the absolute potential of that equipment is because you cannot select the appropriate PPE without it.” William Watson, Vice President of Safety at Miller Electric and Chairman of the NECA Large Contractor Safety Group, said during the round table discussion in the Arc Week Season 4 finale.

Join us as we delve into the world of electrical systems, debunk misconceptions, and redefine what it means to maintain a truly safe working environment:


  • Understanding Hazards and Equipment

Once we grasp the hazards and know how to protect ourselves, attention turns to the equipment. Electricians can't simply eyeball a gray panel and estimate incident energy. A coordination study is imperative to determine the absolute potential of the equipment, as selecting appropriate PPE hinges on this knowledge.

  • Voltage Misconceptions

A common misconception arises when considering voltage levels. Assuming that lower voltage equals lower arc flash risk is a fallacy. It's not about voltage alone; it’s about clearing time. If you can't clear the arc fast enough, incident energy spikes, emphasizing the critical role of time in safety.

  • Incident Energy Impact

The duration of exposure to an arc flash directly affects incident energy, influencing the severity of potential injuries. In the burn unit, experiences vary—higher voltage doesn't guarantee worse burns. The key takeaway: When exposed to an arc flash, the severity of consequences remains significant, regardless of the voltage level.

  • Redefining "Normal"

There's no standard for "normal" equipment. Consider a clean room in a well-maintained data center—this is what NFPA 70B envisions. But, as our experts point out, there is no "normal" equipment out there. This challenges us to rethink our understanding of what constitutes normal conditions.

  • Importance of Maintenance

NFPA 70B has become a crucial element in OSHA's electrical maintenance program. The introduction of this standard raises questions about the proper maintenance of equipment. Our experts emphasize the significance of documentation—without it, assumptions about proper maintenance are just that: assumptions.

As we navigate the complexities of electrical safety, understanding NFPA 70B and the maintenance of equipment emerges as a cornerstone. The conversation with our experts sheds light on the nuances and challenges in ensuring a safe working environment. Remember, it's not just about feeling safe; it's about knowing and documenting that your equipment is properly maintained.

Tyndale makes it easy to protect workers for both safety and compliance – while minimizing costs and headaches. Whether you’re shopping for yourself, a handful of employees, or an entire workforce, Tyndale has a solution for you. Reach out to a National Account Executive to get started today.

Do you have a flash fire – rather than an arc flash – hazard?
The hazards may differ, but the valuable lessons in this series are relevant to workers in oil and gas and other industries that use PPE to protect workers from thermal hazards. Don’t miss it!


Series: Arc Bites

Arc Bites condenses in-depth dicussions into short, focused episodes no more than two minutes long and provides concise, insightful content, offering practical takeaways on Arc Flash safety in easily disgestible bites.

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