It is currently Sun May 24, 2020 6:11 pm



Post new topic Reply to topic
Author Message
ekstra   ara
 Post subject: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk for?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 11:05 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2019 10:58 pm
Posts: 1
I probably should have asked my employer this before I started my career, but I've been doing arc flash studies for 6 years now for a consulting firm. One of our clients is a large industrial one for which I have been doing all their studies over the past 5 years. I have a P.E. license.

I never really questioned it, and was never really informed, but if an incident were to happen related to arc flash, and somehow it was found after the fact that I had made a mistake in my calculations, what would happen to me?

If I for example used the wrong working distance or entered in an incorrect arc flash category on a label, or something silly which could have been avoided with a better peer review program, could I go to jail? Is that negligence? Can I be sued, or would my employer take the hit?

What if I leave the company and 10 years later, an incident happens in which it is found that I made an erroneous calculation, but the facility failed to replace the label after 5 years? Am I still liable, if after 10 years the incident energy has not changed?

What if the client did the data collection and gave me incorrect information?

I haven't made any mistakes that I know of - I work with some very intelligent engineers and we do our best to get the best data we can and to check our work, but I have never really considered these types of scenarios and am wondering if I should seek another line of work because now I am imagining switching careers and having this come back to bite me when I have a wife/kids. The facility I perform studies for is very safety conscious and we always try to issue results that overprotect the workers, but there's always that off chance that some freak accident happens.

Appreciate the help.. thanks.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:14 am 
User avatar

Joined: Mon May 25, 2015 1:17 pm
Posts: 13
Location: Northern California
Great question. I believe I know exactly where to look for the answer - insurance. Your firm will carry error & omissions professional liability insurance that is specifically intended to address the very important issue you raise. Where I work I both do AF calcs and pay the companies insurance bill, and once or twice a year I talk to my insurance broker about my options and about my clients and risks. Some insurance providers like CNA have good training material about all sorts of aspects of this. So in your case I would ask your employer. I’d be very interested to hear what you learn and what others know about this.
Best regards, Gary.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2019 6:18 am 
Arc Level

Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2008 8:49 pm
Posts: 498
Location: New England
The way I understand it, you can be at risk personally.
When an accident occurs, the plaintiff's lawyer is going to sue everyone and their brother - the employer, the utility, the manufacturer of the gear, the engineering company, and potentially you personally. The judge or arbitrator will dismiss some claims that really have no involvement or are protected, like the utility, and maybe the manufacturer unless the plaintiff is making a claim of an intentional design flaw.

They are going after the money, and you have the least of it, so they may or may not name you personally. Your employer, and their insurance, will be out to protect themselves. So they will be deciding if it is in 'their' best interest to defend you. They may not, and throw you to the dogs to protect themselves.

Your protection, comes in multiple ways. First, you pay for your own E&O insurancne in your name exclusively. Second, there is a statue of limitations for engineering errors, usually about 10 years varying from state to state. Lastly, you defend yourself in court, at your own expense and prove you did nothing wrong.

Injury cases aren't about assigning guilt, they're about helping the injured person. I was witness in a case where a MV splicer cut into a live cable while in a manhole. He had control over the situation entirely but made an error in judgement. At arbitration, the judge is talking about the man's ability for future work, his standing in the community, his involvement with his church - everything else but who was at fault. Needless to say he got a large settlement.

As a PE we kind of get a raw deal. 10 years is a long time. That statue for lawyer's mistake of E&O is only 3 years. So, even after you leave your company, change occupations, or retire, you need to continue to pay E&O insurance until the statue of limitations is reached.

As a PE, I am lucky that I can choose my work. For one thing, I'd never stamp a fire alarm system for a school building. Just too much future risk.

Sorry to paint such a negative picture, but that's what I see out in the real world. There could be some legal way to protect yourself, like forming an LLC and then having your company pay you as a contractor. But that veil could still be broken. In the US, you can so anybody for anything, even selling you a cup of coffee that is too hot!


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2019 12:03 pm 
Sparks Level
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2016 10:01 am
Posts: 227
Location: Indiana
haze10 wrote:
The way I understand it, you can be at risk personally............


Me too, although your employer's professional liability insurance should defend you and pay any claims up to the limits of the policy, if need be.

RE: Incorporating etc. I don't think that works for PE's. You cannot be shielded by the corporate veil or however that saying goes. That will only work for PE's for claims like you (your company) didn't pay your rent or for equipment or something like that, the corporation did. I think the company would be held responsible for the debts, not the PE personally. Much like a doctor that is an employee of Docs-R-Us, Inc. must still carry malpractice insurance and can be sued personally. Docs-R-Us, Inc. can't shield him from his own negligence.

_________________
SKM jockey for hire


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 7:00 am 
Sparks Level

Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:43 am
Posts: 177
Location: Colorado
Fortunately lawsuits are rare, but they do happen. Review the case of the hotel bridge in Kansas (maybe Missouri). Yes, you can be held liable and yes you can lose you license, be sued, and possibly got jail. Negligence has to be proven. Did you follow code or best industry practices? Do you even know the applicable codes and practices?

Several years ago I was at an IEEE meeting where the topic of arc flash was being presented (it was relatively new then). I sat near the back of the room because I had been doing studies for several years by then. There were a couple of engineers sitting next to me and we had talked about "how many arc flash studies we have done". Later I overheard one of them say "hey, we really should get that 1584 thing and read it". Point being - how may times do we as PE's do things we really don't know nearly enough about to do a adequate job? I see it everyday, I probably do it every week. I have moved into a new industry and learn something new every week but I then try to ask questions or do an online search. A lot of engineers do not do that!

Engineering is business of mistakes, through education and experience we attempt to reduce those errors. This only works if we admit when we do not know, admit our mistakes, and most of all keep on learning.

Performing arc flash studies are a huge risk. Rarely do we know all of the information. When I present an arc flash report I try to put all know information and assumptions in the report therefore nothing is hidden nor anything assumed without notating it.

The good news is if there is an arc flash incident there are many variables that lead up to event and severity of the event. The actual risk to the engineer is minimized by all of these variables. The fact you are doing "something" has probably reduced the risk to many more people that you will ever know and to me that is worth the risk of a potential lawsuit.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 10:00 am 
Sparks Level
User avatar

Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2016 10:01 am
Posts: 227
Location: Indiana
engrick wrote:
.....................

Performing arc flash studies are a huge risk. Rarely do we know all of the information. When I present an arc flash report I try to put all know information and assumptions in the report therefore nothing is hidden nor anything assumed without notating it.

The good news is if there is an arc flash incident there are many variables that lead up to event and severity of the event. The actual risk to the engineer is minimized by all of these variables. The fact you are doing "something" has probably reduced the risk to many more people that you will ever know and to me that is worth the risk of a potential lawsuit.


Well said. Thanks.

_________________
SKM jockey for hire


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:43 am 
Sparks Level

Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:40 am
Posts: 89
Hello Miron, A little advise from North of the border. Up here I have observed more detailed warning labels that are packed with information- uneccesary information, such as listing PPE, clothing, even giving basic instruction. As an engineer you want to limit your liability. So be careful in what and how much information you insert on the detailed warning label. Less is better, provide the basics. a well trained worker employed by a company with a good comprehensive electrical safety program will be able to interpret the boundaries and select their PPE based on task and risk assessment


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2019 8:48 am 

Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2015 9:45 am
Posts: 33
Location: Massachusetts
This is going to get especially dicey when a worker is working under a 1584-2002 calculated incident energy value vs what the 2012 formulas would calculate, and if that 2002 number is lower.

While "laying blame" may not be the goal, generally the law cannot not extract something without blame being placed. If an incident happens and it can be shown that the incident energy level was greater than the label, they will of course want to know how that happened that caused that to be the case.

If they can prove that the engineer was negligent in the performance of the study then they would have good reason to extract compensation to the harmed parties. We as engineers need to be able to show that we used the best available information at the time the study was performed, and that conceivable issues and concerns were addressed. Showing proof that standards and standard industry practice were followed will actually go a long way legally. They will not however, pay your standard legal fees...

This is why I always tell the engineers I work with that we need to think in terms of "Worst Case", what is the configuration that calculates the worst case incident energy, and that is the case that needs to be modeled and shown on the label.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
 Post subject: Re: What are engineers who do the arc flash studies at risk
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:09 am 
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2011 2:17 pm
Posts: 20
Location: Waggaman - Cornerstone Chemical Company
to bbaumer/engrick:

Well said. I agree that the multiple factors involved tend to reduce the severity of most events. More companies focusing on electrical safety helps as well.

To mironjobra: I would recommend that you maintain resilence (it sounds like you DO) and not let these risks you brought up discourage you. We (EEs, electricians/technicians) all face this hurdle (risk of making mistakes). In spite of this, these occupations can be very rewarding.


Top
 Profile Send private message  
Reply with quote  
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 9 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 7 hours


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to:  
© 2019 Arcflash Forum / Brainfiller, Inc. | P.O. Box 12024 | Scottsdale, AZ 85267 USA | 800-874-8883