Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP
The 2012 edition of the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) hit the streets August 1. The updated code adds a new dimension to electric utility arc flash implementation with the inclusion of voltages from 50-1000V. Previous editions have required employers to assess voltages over 1000V for potential electric arc flash exposure and to provide clothing or a clothing system with an effective arc rating for the anticipated arc energy.
We all know high-quality training must take place to ensure the overall development of employees. Does having a well-trained employee mean the employee only attends a monthly safety meeting to gain training knowledge? Certainly not. Training should provide employees with a continual understanding of job task requirements, task-associated hazards and the appropriate abatement strategies for their safety. A monthly safety meeting may help validate these issues, but it cannot be the sole delivery method for training. Unfortunately, many employees receive no additional training beyond apprenticeship other than safety meetings. Some employees, depending on their job classification, may never receive any additional formal training besides safety meetings.
The 2007 edition of the National Electrical Safety Code may pose significant work rule changes for electric utilities. The updated code, which is detailed in the NESC-2007 handbook, covers the following areas.
Some utility personnel have resisted arc-flash compliance with the presumption that arc flashes and blasts are not a major issue for the utility industry. Organizations and standards committees such as IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), NFPA70E (National Fire Protection Association), EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute), CRN (Cooperative Research Network) and others confirm this as a false statement. An IEEE study concluded, “To decrease the number and severity of non-fatal electrical burn injuries, direct worker exposure to electrical arc energy must be reduced.”
If you’re in a quandary over arc flash compliance, you’re not alone, according to Incident Prevention’s recent survey.
NESC-2012 change proposals have been published and are available for comment through May 1, 2010. Subcommittee 8, Work Rules Sections 40-44, is responsible for the changes to Part 4 of the NESC. The main change proposal includes a requirement for employers to determine potential electric arc exposures for employees who work on or near lines, parts or equipment 50- 1,000 volts. NESC-2007 does not specifically require employers to perform an arc hazard analysis on low-voltage systems so this will be a major change for 2012.
Information technology has profoundly transformed the electric distribution dispatching center. Historically, a dispatching center’s primary responsibility was to receive outage calls, assign daily work and communicate to field crews via the company radio.
Electric utilities have unique issues that are not easily addressed in a traditional LOTO program. Traditional programs typically address equipment and system designs that rarely change. This is certainly not true with electric utility Transmission and Distribution (T&D) programs. LOTO procedures are dynamic, changing from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour.