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 Post subject: Unqualified Personnel Operating 480 V Breakers
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:39 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:48 pm
Posts: 17
Location: Idaho
I have a client who is struggling with the demarcation of what operators (non-electrical) can do on their facility in regards to operating 480 V MCC breakers. Historically, operators have been allowed to operate 480 V breakers as needed during their daily routine, wearing typical PPE (hard-hat, safety toe boots and safety glasses). They are trained for their duties, which does include hazard recognition however does not require them to wear Arc Flash rated PPE (at this time).

Do operators need to have additional training and wear Arc rated PPE to open or close a breaker? Or can this task only be done by qualified electrical personnel wearing Arc rated PPE?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:52 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:08 am
Posts: 2174
Location: North Carolina
The term "qualified" under 70E means that the person is trained to recognize and avoid the hazards involved in the task. It is task specific. As an example, electricians that are not trained in performing live-line, bare hands overhead line work should be trained to AVOID contact with live lines. Everyone works within the work methods and voltages that they are trained on.

Your personnel are definitely not "unqualified". They are qualified to perform a certain task. In this case it is limited to operating breakers and disconnect switches in conditions where there are no exposed conductors present.

Now, carefully examine the task and whether or not there are any hazards associated with that task, electrical or otherwise, the magnitude of those hazards (what can happen), and the likelihood of those hazards occurring.

Regardless of the results of the risk analysis (which is what I just described), you MUST train workers to recognize and avoid the hazards associated with the task, especially if they are significant. This is true in general, regardless of whether the hazard is electrical or not.

Now if the hazard is great enough that specific work procedures are necessary to avoid or minimize the hazard, then workers must be trained how to do this. This may mean maintaining and wearing additional PPE. The additional PPE could be face shields, gloves, fire retardant clothing, and so forth.

So...there is nothing wrong with training operators to perform a specific task (switching breakers and disconnects) including recognition of the potential hazards (arc flash, what to do if equipment is not working correctly), and the proper steps to take to deal with the hazards. If you choose to NOT train them on performing work on energized, exposed electrical conductors, but DO choose to train them on donning proper PPE if necessary and performing switching operations, there is nothing wrong with that.

70E is a bit confusing on this issue because it talks about "qualified" and "unqualified" workers. In many places there is an assumption that "qualified" means electricians. In other places, "unqualified" means that a person is not trained to perform a task...only to avoid hazards. "Qualified" generally means that they are performing a task that involves some hazard recognition and potential mitigation.

I'm not sure if this is making sense but I'm trying to avoid words like "arc flash", "PPE", "qualified", and "unqualified" because this is a general concept. There is nothing special about 70E in this regard.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:51 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:48 pm
Posts: 17
Location: Idaho
Thanks PaulEngr, this helps.


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