Our interest in determining accurate onset to second degree burn energy and its significance in computing the arc flash boundary is focused on the prevention of injury to the skin of a human who might be exposed to an arc-flash. During the last two decades different formulas have been proposed to calculate incident energy at an assumed working distance, and the arc flash boundary in order to determine arc rated personal protective equipment for Qualified Electrical Workers. Among others, the IEEE Standard P1584 Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations [1584 IEEE Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations. IEEE Industry Applications Society. September 2002] and formulas provided in Annex D of NFPA 70E [NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. 2012.] and CSA Z462 [ CSA Z462 Workplace electrical safety Standards. 2012.] Workplace Electrical Safety Standard are the most often utilized in the industry to perform arc flash hazard analysis. The formulas are based on incident energy testing performed and calculations conducted for selected range of prospective fault currents, system voltages, physical configurations etc.

Use of Incident Energy as a Measure of Burn Severity in Arc Flash Boundary Calculations
The IEEE P1584 Standard was developed by having incident energy testing performed based on methodology described in the ASTM F1959-99 standard. The incident energy to which the worker’s face and chest could be exposed at working distance during an electrical arc event was selected as a measure for determining hazard risk category and calculating the arc flash boundary. The incident energy of 1.2 cal/cm2 ( 5.0 J/cm2 ) for bare skinwas selected in solving the equation for the arc flash boundary in IEEE P1584 [1584 IEEE Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations. IEEE Industry Applications Society. September 2002. page 41]. Also, NFPA 70E [NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. 2012. page 10] states that “a second degree burn is possible by an exposure of unprotected skin to an electric arc flash above the incident energy level of 1.2 cal/cm2 ( 5.0 J/cm2 )” and assumes 1.2 cal/cm2 as a threshold incident energy level for a second degree burn for systems 50 Volts and greater [NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. 2012. page 26].The IEEE 1584 Guidestates that “the incident energy that will cause a just curable burn or a second degree burn is 1.2 cal/cm2 (5.0 J/cm2 )” [1584 IEEE Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations. IEEE Industry Applications Society. September 2002. page 96]. To better understand these units, IEEE P1584 refers to an example of a butane lighter. Quote: “if a butane lighter is held 1 cm away from a person’s finger for one second and the finger is in the blue flame, a square centimeter area of the finger will be exposed to about 5.0 J/cm2 or 1.2 cal/cm2 “. However IEEE P1584 equations (5.8) and (5.9) for determining the arc flash boundary can also be solved with other incident energy levels as well such as the rating of proposed personal protective equipment (PPE). The important point to note here is that threshold incident energy level for a second degree burn or onset to second degree burn energy on a bare skin is considered constant value equal to 1.2 cal/cm2 (5.0 J/cm2) in IEEE P1584 Standard.

Flash Fire Burn Experimentations and Observations

Much of the research which led to equations to predict skin burns was started during or immediately after World War II. In order to protect people from fires, atomic bomb blasts and other thermal threats it was first necessary to understand the effects of thermal trauma on the skin. To name the few, are the works done by Alice M. Stoll, J.B.Perkins, H.E.Pease, H.D.Kingsley and Wordie H. Parr. Tests were performed on a large number of anaesthetized pigs and rats exposed directly to fire. Some tests were also performed on human volunteers on the fronts of the thorax and forearms. A variety of studies on thermal effects have been performed and thermal thresholds were identified for different degree burns. We will focus on second degree burn as this is the kind of burn used to determine the arc flash boundary in engineering arc flash analysis studies.

Alice Stoll pursued the basic concept that burn injury is ultimately related to skin tissue temperature elevation for a sufficient time. Stoll and associates performed experimental research to determine the time it takes for second degree burn damage to occur for a given heat flux exposure. Stoll showed that regardless of the mode of application of heat, the temperature rise and therefore the tolerance time is related to heat absorbed by the skin[Stoll, A.M., Chianta M.A, Heat Transfer Through Fabrics. Naval Air Development Center. Sept. 1970]. Results of this study are represented in Figure 1 line (A) along with other studies discussed below. READ MORE