Industry backs IEEE-NFPA arc flash testing program with initial donations of $1.25 million

Published on July 17, 2006
Multi-year, $6.5 million program aims to better define arc flash hazards and protect workers

PISCATAWAY, NJ, July 17, 2006 – A multi-year initiative by the IEEE and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to gain a better understanding of arc flash hazards and how to protect electrical workers against them has received an initial $1.25 million in contributions from industry.

Three major donations have been received: $500,000 from Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL), $500,000 from Bruce Power, and $250,000 from Hydro One Networks, Inc. An additional $5 million is needed to fully fund the IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research and Testing Project. Electrical utilities, process industries, equipment manufacturers, professional associations, safety-related agencies, insurers and others concerned with the safety of electrical workers are being asked to contribute to the project.

The need for the initiative is evident in the many reports on arc flash phenomena. The US Department of Labor and Electricite de France, for instance, cite arc flash as causing an inordinate number of electrical worker deaths and serious injuries. One major corporation found that up to 80 percent of its electrical injuries involve thermal burns due to arcing faults.

"We were impressed by the thorough job IEEE and NFPA did in defining arc flash issues and the research needed,” says Gus Schaefer, Sr. Vice President and Public Safety Officer at UL. “Our contribution to this program is consistent with our mission, which includes promoting 'safe living and working environments' and advancing 'safety science through research and investigation.'  We see the program as a great opportunity for many organizations to collaborate to benefit the entire power industry."

Duncan Hawthorne, President and CEO of Bruce Power, which is located on the shores of Lake Huron, says his company is thrilled to be the first North American electricity generator to support this arc flash initiative. “Supporting such an important breakthrough health and safety initiative is consistent with our number one value of safety first. Moving forward, I will be encouraging other utilities to participate in this important initiative".

Since 2001, Bruce Power has made safety a key focus by reducing lost-time injuries by over 93 percent and by leading a group of over 150 business leaders in the CEO Health and Safety Leadership Charter. Hawthorne said he believes this initiative will build on Bruce Power’s track record as a leader in health and safety by helping to counteract the risks arc flash poses to those who work on or near electrical equipment.

The more than 2,000 test protocols planned for the IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research and Testing Project will create deeper insight into arc flash and arc blast phenomena, especially in areas not researched before. The project will measure thermal energy transfer from these phenomena, as well as such effects as pressure and sound waves, shrapnel, the toxicity of gases released, and energy radiated at infrared, visible, ultra-violet, x-ray and other wavelengths.  It also will look at how enclosures affect the energy released in an arcing fault.

"At Hydro One we believe that everyone is entitled to a safe workplace," says Tom Parkinson, President and CEO of Hydro One. "That is why we are pleased to support an initiative that will contribute to improved workers safety not only at Hydro One, but across a multitude of sectors."

The program will yield many dividends. In addition to improving worker safety, it will help employers boost operating efficiency and productivity and lower workers’ compensation claims and premiums. Insurance carriers should thus see fewer claims for injuries and property damage and fewer workers’ compensation and disability claims. In addition, the information developed will help electrical equipment and personal protective equipment manufacturers create safer products.

The program has also received smaller donations, such as $5,000 from SKM Power Tools and $1,500 from John Cadick at Cadick Corporation. In addition, Powell Electrical Systems will contribute the metal enclosures to be used in testing.

Data from the project will enable the IEEE to expand IEEE 1584™, “Guide for Performing Arc‑Flash Hazard Calculations”, which helps designers and operators determine arc flash hazard distance and energy exposure. Similarly, the project will help NFPA enhance NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. NFPA 70E provides guidelines in such areas as training, hazard evaluation, work conditions and personal protective clothing.

Those interested in contributing to the IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research and Testing Project should contact either Sue Vogel at IEEE (+1 732 562-3817) or Mark Earley at NFPA (+1 617 984-7400) for more information. A prospectus on the project is available online.

About the National Fire Protection Association
The National Fire Protection Association has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

About the IEEE Standards Association
The IEEE Standards Association, a globally recognized standards-setting body, develops consensus standards through an open process that brings diverse parts of an industry together. These standards set specifications and procedures to ensure that products and services are fit for their purpose and perform as intended. The IEEE-SA has a portfolio of more than 870 completed standards and more than 400 standards in development. Over 15,000 IEEE members worldwide belong to IEEE-SA and voluntarily participate in standards activities. For further information, check the IEEE-SA Web site.

About the IEEE
The IEEE has more than 375,000 members in approximately 150 countries. Through its members, the organization is a leading authority on areas ranging from aerospace, computers and telecommunications to biomedicine, electric power and consumer electronics. The IEEE produces nearly 30 percent of the world's literature in the electrical and electronics engineering, computing and control technology fields. This nonprofit organization also sponsors or cosponsors more than 300 technical conferences each year. Additional information about the IEEE can be found at its Web site.

Contact: Sue Vogel, Manager, Technical Committee Programs, +1 732 562-3817
Lorraine Carli, NFPA Public Affairs Office, +1 617-984-7275