Reviewing Arc Flash Labels and the NFPA 70e Standard
Whenever working on equipment in a facility there are going to be risks associated with the job. In cases when the equipment must be energized in order to perform a maintenance task, however, the risk is significantly higher.
This is why the NFPA has added new provisions to their National Electrical Code regulations stating that labels must be placed on all electrical equipment that needs to be worked on while electrified and there is any risk of an arc flash occurring. Even if the equipment is only being inspected while still on, it must have these safety labels.
When are Arc Flash Labels Required?
Facilities are required to add these labels to any type of machinery that could potentially create an arc flash, which could come in contact with someone working on the machine. Specifically, in section 110.16, states that the employees must be aware of this risk before they enter the machinery, so they can make an educated decision on whether or not they should proceed.
The NFPA 70e standards get somewhat more specific, stating that any time there is a risk of an arc flash that could expose any part of the person entering the area’s body to an energy level that is strong enough to create second degree burns.
While it is good to know about the specific times when a safety label is necessary, most facilities will want to add these types of labels to any machine where this type of risk is present, even if the severity of the situation is minimal.
Why Do You Have to Use Arc Flash Labels?
While the labels won’t be able to physically stop anyone from getting injured when they are working in the area, they will help draw their attention to the risk. There are already standards in place that say that only trained individuals who are well aware of the risks of arch flashes should enter these machines anyway.
The label is going to simply serve as a reminder that this particular machine is still energized, and they should be aware of the risk. This will also prompt them to determine if there is another way to perform the tasks that they need to do. For example, rather than going into the machine while it is energized, they may be able to turn off the machine for this particular task.
Whenever possible, the individual working on the machine should eliminate the risks that are present. Only in those situations where the machine must be energized in order to perform the work should they continue with their work. The label will essentially serve as a last reminder to go through any other options before continuing.
What are the Different Types Labels?
LabelTac Continuous Header Supply
If you are going to update the labeling on your machinery, you will want to make sure you are using high quality labels that will meet the requirements of the NFPA 70e standards. For many facilities, this means using their LabelTac industrial printer to quickly create the exact labels that will meet the requirements for this type of thing.
There are quite a few different options when it comes to printing these labels off. The following are some of the different options you can use when printing off your arc flash labels.
- Colors – The top should be either red or orange, and the triangle with the arc flash icon should be black with a yellow background. The rest should be black text with a white background.
- Icon – The icons used on these labels are either the basic image of a lightning bolt, or an image of an electric burst coming from the bottom of the triangle.
- Text – The text of the label should clearly indicate that there is an arc flash hazard in the area. You can also include text concerning what the danger is, what types of personal protection equipment s needed, and any other information that is relevant to your facility.
Whenever printing off an arc flash warning label, you will want to make sure it is large enough to be easily seen when people are walking by it. This means you need to make sure the label itself is large enough to have all the necessary text, without making the text so tiny that it is difficult to read.
Placement of the Labels
You will need to place your labels in a location that is easily visible before any maintenance personal enter a machine. In addition, it should be clear that the label is referring to the one specific machine that has the arc flash hazard.
It won’t do any good if someone sees the label and doesn’t understand where the risk is, which is why label placement is so important. If there is ever any confusion, it is acceptable to put two or more labels on one machine to help ensure everyone knows exactly where the risk exists.
LabelTac Arc Flash Package
Once you’ve put the labels up, you will need to make sure you keep them properly maintained to avoid any problems. LabelTac printed labels are designed to be long lasting, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep them clean and clear of dust or other debris.
The first thing you can do to help ensure your labels last a long time is to install them properly. This is a fairly simple task. All you have to do is clean the area where you will be placing the label, let it dry and then put the label on by peeling off the protective back and sticking it to the wall. Apply even pressure all over the label to ensure it sticks.
Once the label is up, just make sure it is cleaned on a regular basis by wiping it down with a normal cleaning cloth. You don’t want to get it too wet while cleaning, but you do want to make sure all of the dirt and dust is completely removed so that it is easy to see, even from a bit of a distance.
While adding labels is an important requirements, you must also make sure everyone who will be entering these machines will know exactly what the risk is before they enter. This should be part of their training that is provided by the facility.
In most cases, this type of risk assessment training should be broken down into the following two sections:
- General Arc Flash Risk – This type of training should teach employees about what an arc flash is, what it can do, and how to stay safe when working around machines that could create them. In addition, it will cover things like how to identify indicators that show that an arc flash may occur.
- Specific Facility Risk – The specific facility risk will go over the machines in that specific facility and teach employees what types of things need to be done with an energized machine, and what they need to do in order to stay safe when working with each specific machine.
Of course, part of this training will also be identifying the labels on machines, and knowing what to do when working on any machine with an arc flash warning label.
Teaching everyone who may have to enter these machines what the risks are, how to evaluate them, and most importantly, how to minimize them will help to ensure your facility is as safe as possible when it comes to arc flash.
Working in Arc Flash Risk Areas
If it is determined that it is absolutely necessary to work in an area where there is the risk of an arc flash, it is important to make sure your facility has a set of procedures on how this is done. The procedures should cover the following things:
- Personal Protection Equipment – When working in these areas, make sure employees know to wear personal protection equipment that can minimize the risk of getting electrocuted.
- Safety Observer – Nobody should enter an area where an arc flash risk is present without someone else monitoring the situation. Someone standing outside the risk area can watch to make sure everything is ok. If an arc flash occurs, the other individual should cut power to the machine and call in the emergency medical professionals.
- Minimize Exposure Time – To the extent possible, employees should go into the risk areas knowing exactly what they need to do. They need to focus on getting it done quickly, without making mistakes, and then getting out of the area as soon as they are done. The less time someone is exposed to this type of danger, the better.
As with all safety labels and hazard communication improvements, these labels will only work as long as people in the facility follow their warnings. This should be seen as a first line of defense against the very serious risk of arc flashes. Bringing the risk to people’s attention, so they can better evaluate the situation can help to minimize injuries and could even save lives.
Printing and hanging arc flash labels that meet the NFPA 70e requirements should be one important part of your overall safety improvement plan.
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