UK legal requirements for Arc Flash Studies

UK legal requirements for Arc Flash Studies

Despite being explicitly referenced in legislation for the past 30 years, a shocking number of people still believe that there’s no legal requirement in the UK to take account of Arc Flash when constructing or maintaining electrical systems.

Here at ProGARM, we’ve broken down some of the key parts of the Electricity at Work Regulations, 1989 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999 to help you understand some of the requirements and why they mean you need to undertake Arc Flash studies.

Electricity at Work Regulations, 1989

Regulation 2 defines ‘injuries’ and ‘risks of injuries’ as:

‘Death or personal injury from electric shock, electrical burn, electrical explosion or arcing, or from fire or explosion initiated by electrical energy, where any such death or injury is associated with the generation, provision, transmission, transformation, rectification, conversion, conduction, distribution, control, storage, measurement of use of electrical energy.’

Even without this explicit reference to electrical arcing risks, other regulations clearly set out that the design, physical condition and work delivered to (or near) electrical installations must militate against risks of danger as much as possible.

Regulation 4: Electricity at Work Regulations looks at systems, work activities and protective garments, with relevant parts for this subject stating:

4(1) All systems shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger.

4(2) As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.

4(3) Every work activity, including operation, use and maintenance of a system and work near a system, shall be carried out in such a manner as not to give rise, so far as is reasonably practicable, to danger.

4(4) Any equipment provided under these Regulations for the purpose of protecting persons at work on or near electrical equipment shall be suitable for the use for which it is provided, be maintained in a condition suitable for that use, and be properly used.

What the HSE Guidance Notes to Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 say

The Health and Safety Executive’s Guidance Notes for these regulations make it clear that ‘construction’ includes the way the system is designed and made, but also its ongoing condition with consideration given to testing, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the equipment throughout the system’s lifecycle.

The Stoll Curve is used in testing along with a graph of heat flux exposure

Regulation 4(2) isn’t about how to conduct the maintenance safely, but how maintenance, testing and inspections help to ensure the system’s safety.

Work to live electrical systems, disused equipment and systems and non-electrical work which carries a risk of electrical injury due to its proximity to electrical systems (such as overhead or underground cable strike risks) are all covered by Regulation 4(3). 

The term ‘protective equipment’ in Regulation 4(4) includes any special tools, protective clothing or insulating screening materials needed so that work on live electrical equipment can take place safely. 

It then spells out that all equipment must be fit for purpose (suitable for use), appropriately maintained and that it should only be used as intended. 

It’s clear that properly adhering to the regulations requires a detailed understanding of the risks and consequences of and Arc Flash for each piece of equipment and electrical system.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999

This set of regulations also requires suitable and sufficient risk assessments and sets out a hierarchy of control through Schedule 1: General Principles of Prevention. This includes:

  1. avoiding risks;
  2. evaluating the risks which cannot be avoided;
  3. combating the risks at source;
  4. adapting the work to the individual, especially as regards the design of workplaces, the choice of work equipment and the choice of working and production methods, with a view, in particular, to alleviating monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate and to reducing their effect on health;
  5. adapting to technical progress;
  6. replacing the dangerous by the non-dangerous or the less dangerous;
  7. developing a coherent overall prevention policy which covers technology, organisation of work, working conditions, social relationships and the influence of factors relating to the working environment;
  8. giving collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures; and
  9. giving appropriate instructions to employees.

As we’ve covered extensively in many of our previous blogs, Arc Flash incidents can have catastrophic consequences and, depending on the nature of the task, there can be a significant Arc Flash risk. This can only be identified with a thorough Arc Flash risk assessment.

Where that assessment does identify significant risks, you must then work through the hierarchy of control measures sequentially to manage any risks which can’t be eliminated completely.

Finally, where all opportunities to eliminate and minimise risks have been exhausted, protective measures (such as Arc Flash protective clothing, safety equipment and accessories) can help keep individuals safe as the last line of defence.

If you have any questions about Arc Flash safety clothing which complies with these regulations, please call our specialist team at ProGARM for guidance on +44 (0) 1482 679600.

Make sure that you’re specifying the right PPE for your team.

Read our free guide on the top considerations when choosing Arc Flash clothing & PPE below and make the best choice for you and your team via the link below ⬇.

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