New regulations relating to the installation of electrical devices, driven by technological innovations around the detection of arc faults, came into force on 1st January 2019.

The guidance aims to provide clarity around specific types of arc fault detection devices (AFDD) and where they are required, helping businesses achieve higher levels of safety in the workplace. However, what exactly does it say and how can organisations ensure that they are complying with the new rules?

The latest (18th) edition of the British Standards states, “Arc fault detection devices conforming to BSEN 62606 are recommended as a means of providing additional protection against fire caused by faults in AC final circuits.”
It goes without saying that a key priority for the majority of electrical engineers is ensuring equipment is sized and placed in order to minimise risk, whilst complying with health and safety regulations. In this sense, the latest guidance contains little new information, but rather has been updated to take into account recent advancements in technology, enabling arc faults to be detected and diminished before persons, livestock or property are adversely affected. 

The new rules suggest that arc fault detection devices should be placed “at the origin of the circuit to be protected”, including the below examples of where such devices can be used:

  • In premises with sleeping accommodation
  • At locations with a risk of fire due to the nature of processed or stored materials, i.e. BE2-locations (e.g. Barns, woodworking shops, stores of combustible materials)
  • At locations with combustible constructional materials i.e. CA2 locations (wooden buildings)
  • At fire propagating structures i.e. CB2 locations 
  • At locations endangering irreplaceable goods.

From a client perspective, this list is certainly not exhaustive, and a thorough risk assessment will be required to determine each situation where an AFDD is required. However, it is worth bearing in mind that from an engineer’s perspective, the recommendation is essentially to use an AFDD wherever there is an AC final circuit.

Deconstructing new guidance on arc fault detectionWith regards to where AFDDs should be placed within an electrical installation, it is important to remember that the point closest to the origin of supply is generally the point where there is the greatest risk of a prospective fault, and where any arc fault will be at its largest. 

While retrofitting AFDDs has been common practice in Nordic countries for a number of years, awareness of the benefits of this approach is now spreading to the UK. A sensible first step for organisations is to request that their engineering contractor performs an electrical “health check” of current electrical systems, including an assessment of their need to install AFDDs. Moreover, some providers also offer switchgear which combines arc fault detection with other fault detection systems, ensuring that nuisance tripping is minimised and that all faults are easily diagnosed.

For engineers that are already taking care to minimise risk during electrical installations, this latest guidance around AFDDs is unlikely to require significant changes. However, by gaining a thorough awareness of the new detail provided in this area, companies can gain a valuable opportunity to ensure compliance, and bolster levels of health and safety in the workplace for years to come. 

Tim McNeilly, managing director at I.C. Electrical. 

 

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