Call for cutting-edge solutions and industry collaboration to address silent danger identified in Australia's electrical industry

Schneider Electric
Monday, 01 July, 2024

Call for cutting-edge solutions and industry collaboration to address silent danger identified in Australia's electrical industry

Australia’s dedication to the safety of people in the electrical industry sees us already implementing various protection requirements to fight against the dangers posed by arc flash incidents. These are notably outlined in the AS/NZS 4836:2023 standard, which emphasises that protective clothing worn during work on or near exposed energised conductors must be appropriate, correctly fitted, cover the full body, and be in working condition.

Despite these standards, there exists a notable gap in federal regulation regarding the mandated frequency of testing or inspections related to arc flash hazards.

While electrocution often takes centre stage when we talk about electrical hazards, there is another more explosive risk facing the electrical industry. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Safety, between 6 and 11 incidents involving arc faults occur in Australia every year. Far from minor, these incidents pose a significant risk of severe burns or even death.

One company that has taken a proactive approach to mitigating this risk engaged Schneider Electric as experts to undertake an Arc Flash assessment at all of their plants and, in doing so, identified a level 3 arc flash rating in some switchboards. The company then proceeded to design and install an ARC Flash protection solution, effectively mitigating the risks associated with potential arc flash incidents.

Schneider Electric then stepped in promptly to implement engineering controls that protect employees tasked with equipment maintenance, while ensuring minimal disruption to daily operations. In fact, collaborating with stakeholders, it has executed installation in a single shutdown.

Arc flashes can result in explosive events, generating extreme temperatures and posing significant threats to those who are operating systems with such hazards. It’s known that the only way to counter a potential arc flash is through regular monitoring, service, and maintenance.

Unfortunately, many companies tend to delay these measures, unintentionally exposing their workforce to heightened risks.

When asked about the reasoning behind these delays, Vice President of Power Systems and Services James Hunt at Schneider Electric said, “It comes down to human behaviour — worrying about the ‘what if’ and potential associated costs. These risks are there, and business owners are potentially exposing their people and assets without knowing.

“The current regulatory regime doesn’t mandate the frequency of testing. So, it is up to proactive businesses to monitor and manage that risk. This is where Schneider Electric brings additional value by providing highly-skilled consultants who audit, evaluate, and map electrical and automation assets and systems on an ongoing basis.”

To rectify such issues, Schneider Electric installs an advanced ARC Flash protection system that makes the switchboard safe by monitoring critical sections and tripping the incomer circuit breaker at the first indication of an ARC Flash, preventing potential incidents.

Hunt emphasised an ongoing commitment to providing cutting-edge solutions and called for industry collaboration to address the absence of federally mandated regulations on the frequency of arc flash hazard monitoring.

He stated, “Preventing arc flashes can save many Australian lives every year, and without regulations, we need to band together as an industry to break human behaviour, instilling more preventative safety measures in this area into our everyday work environment.”

The important focus now for Australian electricians is to shift towards fostering a proactive safety culture that advocates for united efforts in minimising the risks associated with arc flash incidents.

For more information on arc flashes or the ARC Flash protection solution, visit:

Image credit: RatStocker

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