Electrical workers are exposed to potentially dangerous situations and environments every day. One of the most dangerous threats is an arc flash — an electrical hazard that can raise temperatures up to 35,000 degrees F and cause harm to people and equipment.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) was established in 1897 to help protect workers from electrical hazards such as an arc flash. And today, the standards and practices used globally to create safer work environments for electrical and non-electrical workers are contained in NFPA 70E. Since this standard’s initial release in 1979, electrical companies such as Schneider Electric™ have developed and installed solutions that reduce the risk and severity of arc flash events, shocks, and other serious electrical incidents.
What solutions can you use to get enhanced protection from electrical hazards? We share five safety innovations in this blog post.
#1: Arc-resistant Model 6 motor control center (MCC)
The arc-resistant Model 6 MCC is a low-maintenance, high-performance unit that includes always-on safety features for electrical power protection. It’s an arc-resistant, Type 2-rated unit, manufactured from 12-gauge steel that provides enhanced strength and protection on all sides. And with NEMA Type 1, 3R, and 12 enclosures, it is suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
At the core of this MCC is ArcBlok™, a passive containment system that helps avoid an arc flash before it happens by isolating the line-side conductors in a fully contained IEEE C37.20.7-2017 Type 2 rated cable vault.
Here’s how it works: If an arc flash occurs, the vault contains the energy and directs it away from personnel and equipment. Flanges direct the energy to the rear of the unit, where vents in the steel shelves provide a clear path for the energy to flow upward and release through the top of the unit. Since the cable vault is fully enclosed, it also eliminates the risk of arc flashes caused by debris or objects dropped into the line-side.
Other electrical safety features of the Model 6 MCC include:
- Pre-installed sensors for continuous thermal monitoring (CTM)
- Variable frequency drive filter box for natural heat transfer
- Shrouded bus tabs for arc flash mitigation
- Self-aligning guide rails for precise connections to the vertical bus
#2: Low-voltage transformers — DEO 2016 EX
These units feature integrated CTM, which adds a high level of protection for personnel working on or near the equipment. Additionally, visible indicator lights controlled by the sensors’ display system can be monitored 24 / 7 on a wireless device or through the built-in RS-485 connection. Sensors can be configured to trigger automated alarms and control external warning devices or circuit breakers that can shut down the transformer.
#3: SureSeT medium-voltage switchgear
Like the DEO 2016 EX, SureSeT medium–voltage switchgear also includes natively integrated CTM and other IoT-enabled features that allow technicians to work from a safe distance. QR codes on all switchgear provide instant access to single line diagrams, maintenance records, and other information contained in the digital logbook app for informed maintenance. Embedded IoT sensors placed in key areas on the equipment collect data continuously, and this data can be used to identify potential issues, pre-set alarms, perform remote operation, and for predictive maintenance recommendations.
The intelligence built into the SureSeT platform provides several benefits that increase safety and efficiency.
- Remote monitoring and operation reduce contact with electrical equipment
- Data-informed, scheduled predictive maintenance minimizes risks when contact is necessary
#4: TeSys island load management solution
TeSys island takes digitization — and electrical safety — to a new level, reducing the need for hands-on electrical maintenance. This innovative system virtualizes load management for electrical loads up to 40 HP by creating digital objects called avatars to represent all connected equipment.
Automated software-controlled operations can be controlled with physical equipment in TeSys island. In a hybrid environment, a physical stop button connected via an SIL interface would first shut down the associated machine. On the virtual side, it would then trigger a series of actions to de-energize equipment within an SIL group or zone that would stabilize the system and make it safe to access.
The TeSys island displays system status, settings, alerts, and alarms, and allows the user to distribute loads to connected machines and equipment through a single access point. All alerts and events are stored in a digital logbook that can be used to analyze abnormalities and occurrences. The result is a highly efficient system with automated controls and predictive analytics that increase uptime and reduce the need for hands-on maintenance.
#5: Heavy-duty safety switches (HDSS)
The Schneider Electric portfolio of heavy-duty safety switches are built with safety in mind. The handles are color coded with red and black indicators for the on and off positions and feature a dual cover lock that:
- Prevents the door from opening when the switch is on
- Prevents the user from turning on the switch if the door is open
Handles can also accommodate multiple padlocks for easy lock out/tag out, as can the door itself.
Heavy-duty safety switches can handle fault currents in excess of 10,000 A and are intended for use in rugged conditions where weather, debris, and dust are present. They feature:
- Copper along the paths where current is heaviest to control the switch’s temperature and extend operating life
- Inside, line-side, and load-side barriers
- Optional arc flash suppressor
- Visible blades to see engagement with stationary contacts
- Viewing window for visual blade inspection (VisiPacT™ safety switch)
- Quick-make, quick-break operating mechanism to ensure proper contact engagement
Combined, these features protect workers from contact with energized parts and arc flashes while performing maintenance.
Safety by design
Schneider Electric has been at the forefront of electrical safety since we manufactured the first safety switch over 115 years ago. Safety by design drives everything we do — from the products we manufacture to our services.
The five solutions shared in this blog represent some safety innovations designed to keep you, your workers, and your equipment better protected from electrical hazards.
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