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Arc Flash

Harnessing Modern Software to Improve Arc Flash Safety

Anyone who works in facility safety should know that an arc flash has the potential to be one of the most dangerous, destructive and even deadly events that take place. To put it simply, an arc flash is any electrical discharge where the electricity travels through the air between two conductors or between one conductor and a ground.

The event is an electrical explosion that can result in fires, damage to equipment, serious injury or even death to those in the area. What makes an arc flash particularly dangerous is that they occur so quickly and often with no external warnings.

Dangers of an Arc Flash

Arc Flash Dangers

Arc Flash Explosions Can Result in Injury or Death

While any type of electrical shock can be dangerous, an arc flash can really take it to the next level. This is because an arch flash can reach temperatures exceeding 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. These extreme temperatures can instantly vaporize metal and create a splash of plasma or molten metal throughout the area.

If someone is working anywhere in between the source and destination of the electricity during an arc flash, the electricity can pass through them or close to them to cause severe burns. Another risk is that the arc flash force will throw the individual some distance, potentially causing a significant amount of harm. Of course, any resulting fires from the arc flash could also be quite deadly.

In addition to the extreme heat and other dangers, the arc flash can also be harmful due to direct electrocution of those in the area.

Most arc flashes occur in electrical systems that run at 480V or higher. The higher the voltage, the more risk there will be. With this in mind, all facilities should be taking all possible precautions to help minimize the risk of an arc flash occurring.

Modern Options for Reducing Arc Flash Risk

Over the years there have been many safety improvements when it comes to electrical equipment. Using proper personal protection equipment, checking wiring for proper insulation and things like this have all helped to contribute to the overall safety of many facilities. While important, these are very manual tasks that can only provide a limited amount of benefit given the fact that they require people to physically inspect all the electrical equipment on a regular basis.

Today, however, there is a powerful new option to help reduce the overall risk of an arc flash from occurring. This option is high-tech software tools that can help in planning and monitoring of electrical equipment and even offer recommendations on how to improve the safety of the facility.

There are many great companies that have developed high quality software that is either focused specifically on arc flash safety or else can be used for that purpose. Taking some time to learn about each of these options will help you to see which one is right for your company.

Some companies will only need a single type of software to handle their specific needs. Others, however, can benefit from multiple different software suites. Knowing what your facility needs can help you to ensure you are able to have the safest facility possible when it comes to arc flashes and other electrical hazards. Whether you are able to invest in just one or your company has the funds to use several, it is always best to know all your options before moving forward.

SKM Systems Analysis Inc

Power System Analysis using SKM-PTW to Build One Line Diagram, Input Data & run analysis; Schort-Circuit & Load Flow

SKM Systems Analysis, Inc has been around since 1972 and is based in California. The company was started by a team of three engineers who wanted to help improve electrical design using automation and computer systems. The company provides electrical planning, evaluation and safety software to many users around the world.

Their software is frequently used at regional electricity sub-stations, wind farms, hydro-electric dams and much more. Anywhere that electricity is produced, stored or used in large quantities can benefit from the products offered by SKM System Analysis, Inc. Even if your facility is only using one high voltage machine it may be well worth it to invest in the type of software offered by this company.

SKM Systems Analysis

Screenshot of SKM Systems doing some analysis.

They started by developing a system for power analysis called DAPPER. This software was run on a mainframe located in the UCLA Computer Center. Mainframe computing was, at the time, the only way to get the complex calculations that were required in order to gain the results they were looking for. After several years of development, the DAPPER system was up and running on the Control Data Corporation mainframe by 1978. It operated in time-share mode and was able to be accessed and used by engineers around the world.

Over the years SKM has grown and innovated in many ways, but has continued to maintain its focus on using technologies to improve electrical systems. Today, software by this company is used by 39 of the top 40 electrical engineering firms around the world.

SKM Power*Tools

SKM Arc Flash Tutorial

SKM has a suite of software tools available for facilities looking to make improvements to their electrical systems, or even when trying to design new power systems. This set of tools includes a wide range of different products which can either be used together or as standalone tools by your facility. The following are the key systems within this suite of tools:

    • DAPPER - This is the latest version of their original software. While it once required a mainframe to run, today it can operate on a simple Windows PC. It includes a lot of information, studies, and more to help you when planning your electrical systems. While the original version has been around a long time, the latest release is quite innovative and provides users with lots of essential information.
    • CAPTOR - The CAPTOR system is a graphical system that can integrate with short-circuit modules, equipment evaluations and arc flash. Using this module you can get a visual look at your system and where there may be potential problems. Thanks to its graphical interface, this is also much easier to use than many other options out there today.
    • Arc Flash Evaluation - This piece of software will allow you to calculate the incident energy as well as the arc flash boundary for every bus in your system. The information needed is automatically calculated from the device settings and known arc fault values. This software complies with OSHA, NEC 110.16, IEEE 1584 and NFPA 70E. Another nice perk of this software is you can attach your LabelTech 4 PRO industrial label printer to create custom labels as well as work permits.
    • A_Fault (ANSI Short-Circuit Study) - This section of the software provides unique solutions for low, medium and high voltage environments as well as for symmetrical, momentary and interrupting calculations. Since most facilities today have machines that operate at all different voltage levels, this is a particularly helpful piece of software for most people.
    • IEC_Fault - This is a study that was done based on IEC 60909 or the IEC 61363 standards and is for unbalanced short-circuits. Reading through this study and the related information can help ensure your facility is as safe as possible.
    • Equipment Evaluation - You can have this software compare short-circuit and withstand ratings automatically. It will also use de-rating adjustments to produce custom pass/marginal/failed results on your system.
    • TMS - Use this software to create a simulation for a time-based motor. It can produce graphical outputs and allows you to adjust settings to include voltage and capacitor information.
    • HI_Wave - This is to be used for harmonic current, voltage distortion, frequency scans, harmonic load flow as well as interactive filter designs.
    • Unbalanced/Single Phase Studies - You can get reports for single-phase loads as well as unbalanced operating conditions.
    • I*SIM - Enter your own defined models for things like Exciter, Turbine Governor, PSS and more.
    • Distribution Reliability - Use this tool to calculate how reliable each individual load point is across the entire system. This can be done using radial or loop configurations for additional customizability.
    • DC System Analysis - This is an excellent resource for choosing the right size battery, the load flow and short circuit analysis.
SKM Power*Tools

SKM Power*Tools Software Screenshot.

  • Ground Mat - Use the software to optimize your grid design thanks to the finite element algorithm in this package.
  • IEE Wiring Regulation Sizing - Compare your plans with IEE wiring regulations to ensure you're using the right size cables based on how much low your system will be enduring.
  • Cable 3D - A complex cable pulling simulator that uses 3D to help determine tension and sidewall pressure.
  • PTW Viewer - This is a read only version of PTW so you can print and export your study results.

As you can see, this is quite an elaborate set of software. While not each aspect is directly related to arc flash safety, they can all help to improve the overall design and implementation of any power system. This will help reduce electrical hazards, including arc flashes.

One of the best things about SKM Systems Analysis, INC and the software they offer is that it is constantly updated and improved. As your systems evolve, this set of software will adjust with it to ensure you always have everything you need to maintain a safe working environment.


ETAP 14 Tips & Tricks

ETAP has been in business since 1986 and operates out of their main office in Irvine, California. They also have many other offices around the world. The company is focused on electrical power system design, modeling, analysis, optimization and control. They also develop electrical automation software to help a wide range of different clients.

According to their mission statement, ETAP is dedicated to developing state-of-the-art products that can provide superior engineering services. They do this by using all advanced technologies combined with exceptionally high standards for quality. This allows them to provide high levels of customer satisfaction.

Institutions that use their products, including the software they develop, are able to better plan and manage their electrical systems. This can help improve the overall safety of individual machines as well as entire facilities.

Software from this company is used by over 5000 companies, schools, government agencies and other institutions. There are currently over 50,000 licenses sold to institutions in over 100 countries. This makes the ETAP software suite one of the most popular in the world.

This company makes a lot of different types of software to help companies with a wide range of electrical system needs. This includes network analysis, load flow, short circuits, motor starting and much more. Since it would take much too long to go over the details of each of these options, let us look only at their arc flash software options:

  • Arc Flash Result Analyzer - This software allows you to compare various arc flash analysis reports and display the information in a single screen. You can filter out information to focus only on what you need. In addition, you can compare calculation results from a variety of projects at once.
  • Arc Flash Hazard Safety Labels - The software allows you to create high quality arc flash safety labels for your facility. These labels can be made in multiple different languages and follow all the industry standards. When you attach your LabelTac 4 PRO printer to the PC with this software you can quickly create all the high quality safety labels you need. The software can also customize the labels based on your specific requirements.
  • Arc Flash Data Sheets - There are many instances when you must display information from arc flash calculations studies in the facility. Using this software you are able to gather the information (through other parts of this software suite) and then compile them into arc flash data sheets. These sheets can be printed off using an industrial label printer or else saved as a PDF or other file format for each accessing and sharing.
  • Arc Flash Calculator - This simple arc flash calculator users information from IEEE 1584 to get fault clearing times and other valuable information.
ETAP Screenshot

ETAP Software Screenshot.

Along with the different software applications that are available from ETAP, they also provide a nice selection of informative resources concerning arc flashes. Things like videos concerning what arc flashes are and how the company can help, tutorials on their software, whitepapers concerning arc flashes and much more.

These extras are typically available for free online through their website and can be extremely valuable for many companies. Even if you don't use their software or other products, the informational materials they have available can be a great addition to a training program, and onboarding program or just a general study effort by safety professionals in your facility.

When you use the software provided by this company you will gain access to over 30 years worth of data and other information related to electrical systems in general and arc flashes specifically. This can help you to plan and implement safety changes throughout your facility so that everyone will be as safe as possible whenever working with electrical equipment.

Arc Ad (Arc Advisor)

Arc Advisor is a company that designs PC and mobile software to help businesses create a safe working environment for those who work on or service any type of electrical systems. They provide both online, PC based and mobile software for short circuit fault current as well as arc flash analysis.

Arc Advisor Screenshot

Arc Ad (Arc Advisor)Screenshot.

First, look at the following two mobile apps which are available for Android and iOS devices. Both of these mobile apps are free to download and use as much as you'd like. They do, however, have 'professional' versions that you can buy if you need to unlock some extra features that can be very helpful. When it comes to industrial software of this type, however, even their premium price is extremely inexpensive.

Arc Flash Analytic is a free app (with some in-app purchases) that was developed by Arc Ad. It is based on the IEEE 1584 Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations. It is easy to use and makes it quick to calculate things like incident energy and the arc flash boundary. It can also help in determining limited, restricted and prohibited approach boundaries based on risk categories.

This app will take equipment configuration, gap between electrodes, the type of grounding used, the short circuit fault current value and the total system input voltage and then determine the arcing fault current at any potential point where the fault could occur. This can help make it easier to properly use protective devices so that employees in the area can be safe.

In addition, the app will allow you to document information about a given area, take pictures of any device that is of concern, add fuse and/or circuit breaker data and much more. The app is primarily used for electricians or safety specialists who work on or around electrical devices.

Another great perk of this particular app is that it allows you to create custom safety labels based on the information gathered through the app. If your mobile device is connected to a network, you can then print these labels on your LabelTac 4 PRO label printer quickly and easily. There are many types of labels available through this app so you can ensure all your electrical equipment is properly identified for the highest levels of safety.

Many people will find that having the ability to print warning and hazard labels right from a mobile device is a very powerful feature. Safety professionals can take their smart phone or tablet around to the different areas of the facility. When they find a location that can benefit from a safety label, they can have it created and sent to the label printer immediately. This can save a lot of time and effort since you don't have to return to a PC or order labels from a third party print shop.

Short Circuit Fault Current Calculations is the name of the other app that is developed by ArcAd. This is a fairly simple application that can perform short circuit fault current calculations quickly and easily. It uses a three-phase electric power system and factors in a variety of parameters to provide accurate information.

You can add in and remove different components, wiring and even a motor to help simulate real life electrical environments. When ready, just tape the button to run the calculations. You'll get an estimated short circuit current at each busbar. This can help you to understand where there may be potential problems before you actually implement a system in real life.

When used properly, this app can allow you to dramatically cut down on the risk when creating new circuits or adding new devices. By keeping your simulation up to date, you'll find that this app provides you with a significant amount of important information that can be used to streamline day to day tasks of many electricians or facility maintenance professionals.

In addition to their mobile apps, ArcAd has a nice PC based tool called DC Arc Flash Analytic. It functions more or less like the Arc Flash Hazard Analytics app except it is on your Windows based PC. This makes it far faster and easier to determine approach boundaries and hazard risk category.

Most modern computer systems will be able to run this software without a problem. In fact, many facilities will have it installed on a laptop, which can be brought around through the facility so that electricians or safety managers can access, update or review the information as they need it.

If you prefer working on a laptop or PC rather than a mobile phone or tablet, this is clearly the better option. Of course, you can always use both versions to get the most out of any situation.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when looking at this software is that it is for DC environments only. If your facility uses AC for anything you will not want to use this software.

Easy Power

Conditional Arc Flash Labels

Easy Power is another electrical software design firm and one that is providing the industry with a lot of great options. They make a variety of different products including their Easy Power safety tracker and online designer.

What is most important here, however, is the Arc Flash Analysis software. This is a comprehensive productivity platform that is used for performing arc flash analysis. It can also be used to help ensure your facility is in line with OSHA and NFPA standards (including the 70E requirements).

The software itself is used by electricians and safety professionals who either design, implement or maintain a wide range of different electrical systems. This particular software can also be purchased as part of the Easy Power Electrical Software Suite.

When purchased on its own you'll have the following important features:

  • Integrated One Line - This allows you to build one line diagrams quickly and easily. It is done through the 'snap and drag' technology that allows you to move devices and components in and out of the line in just seconds.
  • Scenario Manager - This lets you create models and perform analysis on multiple power systems at a time. These simulations allow you to gather the data you need without putting a live system (or those working on it) at risk.
  • SendCAD - You can easily export data to or from any type of spreadsheet. You can also use a variety of CAD programs for this.
  • MCC & Panel Schedules - This feature allows you to analyze motor control centers and log the data quickly and easily. It uses a simple spreadsheet format that is easy to read and update.
  • SmartDuty - Using an ANSI-standard compliant setup you can verify equipment duty and highlight problem areas.
  • SmartBreaker - Study the switching conditions on each line of your diagram to discover any problems with circuit breakers with just a couple clicks.
Easy Power Screenshot

Easy Power Software Screenshot.

In addition, you can add in four additional features to the suite of software dedicated to arc flash safety. The following are those optional features:

  • SmartPDC - Using simple automation you can perform protective device coordination.
  • ArcFlash - This program makes it easy to ensure your facility is in line with OSHA and NFPA 70E regulations and requirements when it comes to Arc Flashes.
  • ANSI ShortCircuit - Verify protective device equipment. This optional software uses equipment ratings that are in compliance with ANSI, NEC and NFPA 70E.
  • Power Protector - Help ensure safety and reliability by using the comprehensive protective device coordination within the software.

Throughout the software suite from Easy Power you will be able to quickly create tailor made signs and labels to be used on and around your electrical equipment. These labels can then be printed directly from this software to your LabelTac 4 PRO device. This is the easiest and most affordable way to create this type of label for your facility.

In addition to providing software for industries to use to improve electrical safety, EasyPower also has some very nice training videos to view. These videos are free through their website and can be accessed even if you don't purchase their software. What makes their videos especially nice is that they are regularly releasing new ones so they can be a great source for ongoing learning.


CYME Short Circuit Analysis Module, Tutorial

CYME International has been in business since 1986 providing their clients with power engineering software solutions specifically for the electrical industry. They serve companies around the world and are recognized as one of the best software providers for electricians. They currently have over 5000 software solution licenses out there being used by businesses in over 100 countries.

In addition to power engineering software, CYME also offers consulting services for their technologies and technical engineering courses. These added services help their clients not only take the most advantage of the software that they are using, but also ensures that what they are doing is being done correctly. Whether used in creating a new electrical system or evaluating an existing one, this is an excellent service to consider.

Many companies that use the software from CYME also hire them for their other great services including engineering consultation and IT solutions. This goes beyond the courses that they offer. They can actually have highly trained and experienced professionals in each area provide you with direct assistance either on site, over the phone or online.

This is an excellent way to get the expertise that many facilities occasionally need, without having to hire someone on full time to fill these roles. The fact that CYME provides these and many other great services makes them a popular choice when companies are looking for any type of arc flash hazard software today.

When it comes to arc flash hazards, CYME has long been a safety leader for their customers. Their software has a dedicated module for arc flash hazard analysis that can help assess the risk of this issue.

CYME Screenshot

CYME Software Screenshot.

The arc flash hazard analysis module takes all the needed parameters used for determining the risk level and compiles them to provide safety procedures based on your specific situation. It can calculate things like short-circuit fault current levels and provide information on how to reduce the possibility of this happening.

If your system changes, it just takes a few clicks and adjustments to update your 'virtual' system to reflect it. Of course, you can make adjustments in the virtual environment first to see what type of impact it may have. Many facilities find that this is a great way to do quick and easy testing before making any changes to a live environment.

Keeping your virtual system up to date can help ensure you always know what you can expect before it is put into place. Of course, you'll still need to do manual inspections and other work in your live environment, but this type of software provided by CYME can help you to reduce risks from unexpected intersections within electrical systems.

Another nice thing about this software is that after you have entered all the detailed information about your electrical systems, you can easily create warning labels to apply to your systems. These labels will contain exact details from your systems so that employees in the area can quickly read through them and understand what types of safety efforts are needed.

For example, if a particular machine is operating with high voltage levels, it is likely best to wear protective gear whenever coming anywhere near it due to the risk of an arc flash. For low voltage equipment, however, it may be acceptable to just wear protective gloves while actually working on the machine.

The bottom line here is that you can have your warning labels identify the exact hazards and proper responses to them. Once you've got the label information entered into the software it can be printed to your LabelTac 4 PRO label printer in just moments. This is the fastest, easiest and most affordable way to get custom labels for your facility.

Whether you need to just print one label or many, they can all be designed from within the software package provided by CYME, which is yet another reason why they are one of the leaders in electrical safety and power engineering software solutions.

CYME's arc flash module is fully compliant with all the major industry standards when it comes to analyzing arc flash calculations. This includes the NFPA-70E and the IEEE-1584 standards. Their new algorithms in the most recent version of their software are based on NESC 2007 and the Heat Transfer Model.

High Quality Arc Flash Labeling

LabelTac Arc Flash Labeling Kit

As you may have noticed throughout this page, one of the main things that each of the software platforms have in common is the ability to create and print some type of arc flash labeling. This is an essential component because of the fact that proper labeling of electrical equipment is critical for keeping your facility safe.

Not only does it help improve safety, but it is also necessary for facility compliance with OSHA and other standards. No matter which of the software packages you choose, you will need to have a good printer to be able to actually create the labels themselves.

If you don't already have a high quality industrial label printer (or you're not happy with the one you have) consider visiting Creative Safety Supply. We have a large selection of powerful industrial label printers, including the LabelTac 4 PRO. These printers allow you to create your own custom labels at a fraction of the 'per label' cost of having a third party print shop.

All of the label printers sold at Creative Safety Supply are of the highest quality. You can print precise images, pictograms, symbols, text and more onto a wide range of different label stock. This will help ensure your labels are perfect for whatever you happen to need them for at the time. You'll love the convenience that they provide and the excellent return on investment.

Of course, these label printers can be used to print any type of label that you may need for your facility, not just those related to an arc flash. Having this type of printer on site can be a great convenience for many departments while also improving overall visual communication and safety throughout the facility.