NFPA and IEEE Collaborate on Arc-Flash Research Program


The National Fire Protection Association and IEEE have agreed to collaborate on a research and testing program focusing on arc flash and its potential hazards for those working on or near 50-or-more-volt electrical equipment. The results of the program will be used to strengthen electrical safety standards and codes.

The program will evaluate existing test protocols and create new ones to understand how arc-flash energy and other characteristics—including hot gases, pressure, acoustic and electromagnetic energy—can affect the human body and clothing. Other factors, such as how energy varies with distance from the arc and how it can transfer from an arc to its surroundings in dangerous ways, will also be scrutinized.

The goal of the first phase is to create a plan that defines new information needed for arc-flash events and identifies the necessary research to obtain it. The results of this phase are expected by mid-2005. A steering committee will seek industry and government funding sources to carry out the plan.

"This program should have a huge payoff in preventing injuries,” said Ray Jones, chair of the NFPA 70E Working Group. “It will yield standards for the industrial, commercial and utility electric power industries that more closely reflect arc-flash and arc-blast experience in the workplace. These standards will allow the industry to take steps to prevent or mitigate hazards and help workers protect themselves against the possibility of injury.”

“[The program] will be based on real-world data and consider such factors as how the equipment orientation in an enclosure and enclosure openings affect the energy released in an arcing fault,” said Bruce McClung, co-chair of the IEEE 1584 Working Group. “This will help us provide guidance for reengineering safer electrical equipment and systems that reduce the potential for arc flash."

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