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MVM 2028 Initiatives: District team working to prevent electrical accidents

Published June 7, 2019

Arc Flash Hazard Evaluation Team


With its 2028 Initiatives, the Memphis District is identifying and aggressively pursuing a range of innovative measures to equip it with the tools, training, and resources that enable it to deliver increasing value to the region and nation. One such initiative is its new Arc Flash Evaluation Project. The District has trained and resourced a team of arc flash analysis experts with the goal preventing electrical accidents at Corps facilities and sites. 

An arc flash is an explosive burst of heat and light that’s caused by sudden electrical current passing through the air. An arc flash event may be as light as a shock similar to one you get from touching a metal object after walking across carpet on a dry day. On the other hand, an arc flash event can be severe as a burst of heat that reaches 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, generating a blast wave that kills in an instant. 

Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the decade between 2007 – 2017, there were 23,650 electrical workplace injuries and 1,787 fatalities. The Memphis District’s Arc Flash Evaluation Team’s goal is to help prevent these occurrences at Corps properties. This dedicated team has made its expertise available to assist any government agency with achieving the same goal.

Team members Aaron Ray, electrical engineer, and David Wilson, senior electrical engineer, conduct arc flash hazard analyses that evaluate on-site electrical equipment, its installation and the level of electrical energy present, and determine the protective measures required to safely interact with it. The types of electrical equipment that require their attention include switchboards, panel boards, industrial control panels, motor control centers, transformers, and disconnect switches.

Senior Electrical Engineer David Wilson said an arc flash analysis starts with creating a diagram of the electrical system and noting the energy sources (utility feeds and generators), the protection devices, any other components that may limit the available energy, and any equipment that may act as an energy source.  This information is loaded into a program that analyzes the system and indicates the fault current (or short circuit) and the level of energy that would be produced if an arc flash event occurred.  The program prints the results on an arc flash label that indicates energy available, the appropriate personal protective equipment, and the arc flash boundary distance.

The National Fire Protection Association says labeling is required for all electrical equipment that may require examination, adjustment, service or maintenance while energized, creating the potential for an arc flash incident to occur.

So far, the team has performed arc flash analysis and labeling at the following Corps sites: Huxtable Pumping Station, Graham Burke Pumping Station, DD17 Pumping Station, Drinkwater Pumping Station, Richardson Landing, Bank Grader, Clearing and Snagging equipment, Yazoo Pumping Station, Greenwood Pumping Station, Arkabutla Lake Dam site and recreational facilities, and the Sardis Lake Dam site.

Other sites the team will soon perform arc flash analysis and labeling are Granada Lake Dam site and recreational facilities and the Enid Lake Dam site and recreational facilities.