Don’t Be a Dummy – Poster

While I was conducting a 2 day electrical safety training program for a large electric utility, we took a substation tour for a demonstration.  Upon entering the control house, there it was.  A pole top rescue dummy just begging to be photographed and have a caption added.

Of course the first thing that came to mind (after I stopped laughing) was the seriousness of working around the hazards associated with electricity. One wrong move and anyone can be like the dummy.

Download your copy of the poster here.  Don’t be a dummy! Continue reading

Electrical Safety Training – More then just “Checking the Box”

Jim Phillips, P.E.

One word.  Deadly!  If someone performs energized electrical work without being properly trained, the results can be catastrophic – and deadly!  I have seen this play out regularly during accident investigations and legal cases.  The victim was either not properly trained, or perhaps ignored a few steps from the electrical safety training program.

Many companies are very pro-active and make sure their employees are not only trained, but that they receive refresher training at least every three years based on NFPA 70E requirements.  Many even use shorter intervals for refresher training or updates.  Either way, refresher training is important for staying up to date with current standards and it can be a reminder to those that pick up bad habits along the way.

Electrical Safety Training – More than “Checking the Box”

However, a looming problem is that for some companies, training is either way down the list for various reasons or was not very thorough.  I have seen many companies that simply want to “check the box” i.e. state they had training without much regard to what the content was and check it off their to do list.  after all, what could possibly go wrong?

Continue reading

IEC TC 78 Live Working Standards

By Jim Phillips, P.E.
International Chairman IEC TC 78

Jim at the IEC Central Office in Geneva

As the International Chairman of IEC TC 78, a frequent question that I receive is “What is IEC TC 78?”

IEC is the acronym for the International Electrotechnical Commission based in Geneva, Switzerland.  TC 78 standards for Technical Committee 78 which is the Live Working Committee.  This committee is responsible for over 40 different International Live Working standards and documents and is represented by 42 countries via National Committees which includes 136 individuals known as Experts. Before I go any further, let’s back up a few steps first. Continue reading

Arc Flash Labels and ANSI Z535

If you ask five different people what an arc flash label should look like, you will likely receive five different answers.  Although there are no hard and fast rules regarding the label format, there are some minimal requirements found in NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC).

American National Standards Institute’s Z535 Series, known as “Series of Standards for Safety Signs and Tags.” is referenced as additional guidance by NFPA 70E for the labels.  However, it is interesting that according to a survey conducted at, a large percentage Continue reading

Utility Short Circuit Data – Different Formats

National Electrical Code 110.9 Interrupting Ratings states that:

Equipment intended to interrupt current at fault levels shall have an interrupting rating at nominal circuit voltage at least equal to the current that is available at the line terminals of the equipment.

To comply with this requirement,  a short circuit studies is typically performed to determine the available fault current  for comparison to the protective devices interrupting rating.   The results of a short circuit study are also a critical component  for other studies such as an arc flash study. Requesting the available short-circuit data from the electric utility company should be one of the first tasks in performing the study. This information is very important because it defines the magnitude of current that could flow from the utility and is used as a starting point for arc flash calculations.

In addition to requesting this data for normal operating conditions, for an arc flash study the request should also include minimum short-circuit current conditions, if available. The minimum condition could be for a utility transformer or transmission line out of service or similar scenario. The minimum value can then be used to determine if the lower current could result in a protective device operating more slowly, which may increase the total incident energy during an arc flash.

Having been in charge of the Short Circuit Studies group for a very large electric utility company in a past life, the accuracy of the Continue reading

Moisture Content in Electrical Cabinet



At one facility I find that the condensation gathers on the inside surface of an enclosure, which can cause the rusting, short circuits, and breakdowns in electric and electronic equipment that is housed in enclosures. And one short circuit is already happened in the same cabinet.
One more critical problem in the same panel, the cable insulation is fell apart in pieces near the cable lugs. Same cable connected in else panels but didn’t find any such problem there.
So what will be the reason for the cable insulation breaking and what will be the preventive measures for the condensations??



If you have mild overloading/overheating, especially if the overload protection isn’t set up correctly, the highest resistance connections are at the lugs/joints and damage from overheating will start there and then work progressively back up into the cable body. After this occurs the first couple feet or so of insulation will lose it’s flexibility and either crack on its own or if you so much as touch it, it will crack and fall apart in your hands. If you catch it in the act, it will be literally smoking but won’t actually burst into flames or anything like that. This can occur without seeing any ongoing temperature issues and without discoloration occurring at the lugs and the flaking insulation might be your one and only sign that overload protection isn’t set up right.

This doesn’t mean you have an ongoing problem. Although all standards and manufacturers specifications say that you need to change the cable and/or remove the obviously defective portions, the reality is that this usually takes a lot of labor to remove and replace cable so it doesn’t get done…after all, the insulation is clearly obviously still there. And many times it gets overlooked since it just looks like the black rubber/plastic stuff is on the cable like it always is and cracks on something black are hard to see unless you are looking for it. I don’t condone the practice of leaving it when it is obviously defective but I definitely understand the reasons that this becomes a problem that may take years to address even if maintenance departments know about it and are truly committed to trying to do something about it. As a field service engineer I’ll point it out and document it which often gives the maintenance department ammunition to try to justify replacement but often the fact is that it’s hard to convince someone that it is important. They don’t recognize how much cables will actually jump during a fault and that all that insulation will fling off as the cable suddenly flexes.

It’s also definitely possible to find corrosion or similar damage occurring from other sources but the difference is usually obvious because you’ll see a whole lot more than just damaged cable if it’s a corrosion issue due to corrosive atmospheres.

As to the moisture problem…first off the anti-condensate heater idea works well IF you have a reliable source of power and if you are going to PM the heaters once in a while. There are two versions of these. One is a strip heater that is literally exactly what it sounds like and constantly puts out heat. A local motor vendor should easily be able to put you onto a source because they use them for customers that request them in motors, especially medium voltage motors. Second type are the ones that have a small thermostat that turns on and off as required and might even have a small circulation fan depending on the power output. Pretty much any MCC or switchgear catalog will list these in the “accessories” section. Obviously the reliability of a device that has more than just a strip of metal will be less…so along with the strip heater you will be committing yourself to regular PM’s to check them. In today’s paranoid world of so much as opening a cabinet, you can see the obvious issue. Many plants get along just fine with a simple small DIN rail circuit breaker and the previously mentioned “dumb” strip heaters, turning them on in Autumn and turning them off again in the Spring. READ MORE

AF label on Service Disconnect and ATS in same Enclosure

With the awareness of arc flash, many giant manufacturers do not manufacture the Service Disconnect and the Automatic Transfer Switch located in the same section or enclosure. However, this practice can be seen in the field for switchboards rated as high as 600 Amps.
The dangerous part is the upstream of service disconnect is like a blind spot as the only protective device is the utility’s fuse on the primary side of the transformer and often result in high incident energy (greater than 40 Cal/cm2 in most of the cases) at the service disconnect. But because of service disconnect as protective device, in the downstream the incident energy on the ATS(normal-utility side) gets reduced to for instance less than 4 cal/cm2. The problem is although ATS has lower incident energy, it is located right below the Service Disconnect in the same section (enclosure). This is a arc flash hazard and I affix the conservative label (service disconnect) on the section that has service disconnect on the top and ATS at the bottom. So please share your thoughts on how you affix labels:
1. When the Service Disconnect & ATS is located in the same section (enclosure)
2. When there is a barrier between Service Disconnect and ATS located in the same section (enclosure).


IEEE 1584.1-2013


Hello, good afternoon.

Does the standard contain new information to consider for arc flash analysis?

Thank you



No because we’re still on the 2002 edition. The new edition won’t get released until probably next year at the earliest.

As to answering your question, sort of yes and no. Three areas I know will change somewhat:
1. The “lower cutoff” (the old 125 kVA comment/rule) will likely change, probably downward in terms of what is “covered” under this exception but also it sounds like the “1 transformer” part may change to something a little more flexible such as a simple bolted fault cutoff.
2. They have a lot more data to work with. It is my understanding that the 2002 equations are within about 10-15% of the new equations. I’ve seen 3 possible new equations. The first is that EPRI and others have expanded into other areas for “device specific” equations so even though that’s the section that sees little attention, it might change. Second there’s the Wilkins simplified as well as the Wilkins time-domain models. In the past IEEE 1584 kind of covered everything out there and I wouldn’t be surprised if this one does something similar so both get honorable mentions. Both models fit the data a little better. The time domain model is the best but computationally complex to use. Finally I’ve heard that they are getting away from the “jump” that occurs at 1 kV due to the implementation differences between the medium voltage and low voltage models in terms of having a single empirical calculation or at least one that passes through the same point at 1 kV.
3. There has been a lot of discussion and rumbling about a lot more conditons/situations such as having more than just the existing 3 box cases and including electrode orientation which accounts for very problematic situations such as some switchgear. I’d expect that this is where the data gathering is going to have to increase substantially. Everything else just revises the model a bit. READ MORE

Liability and Legal Action

It’s no secret that the United States is a very litigious country.

Sometimes the more “interesting” interpretations that people use regarding codes, standards, design etc. tend to be more influenced by fear of lawsuits. I have had this conversation with many people over the years.

There are many reasons that legal action may be taken but this week’s question is very specific. It refers to: Liability from accident, injury, death, equipment failure. It applies to both the Plaintiff and Defendant.

Since this can be a sensitive topic, one of the answers is “can not answer”
Here it is:

Have you or your company/client ever been involved in legal action involving liability?
Can not answer

Stories are welcome if you are able to comment. ANSWER

Evaluation of Onset to Second Degree Burn Energy in Arc Flash

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

Time To Second Degree Burn Graph