Getting to grips with new arc fault detection guidance
1 January 2019 brought into force new legislation around the detection of arc faults, aiming to help businesses enhance standards of safety when installing electrical devices. Following technological advancements in this area, the guidance offers an explanation of the different types of arc fault detection devices (AFDD) and where they are required.
The 18th version of the British Standards says, “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.” Following the below key steps can help businesses to stay on the right side of the law and ensure a safe workplace when conducting electrical installations:
1. Prioritise equipment size and placing
Ensuring that equipment is sized and placed with the goal of mitigating risk should always be a key objective for electrical engineers. While the new guidance provides limited new information in this area, it has been updated in light of recent developments in technology, allowing arc faults to be detected before persons, livestock or property are adversely affected.
2. If there is an AC final circuit, use an AFDD
The new regulations advise on placing arc fault detection devices “at the origin of the circuit to be protected”, providing the below examples of locations where they can be installed:
- 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.
It’s important to bear in mind that regardless of whether an installation meets these criteria, a thorough risk assessment will be essential and from an engineer’s perspective, an AFDD should be placed wherever there is an AC final circuit and at the point closest to the origin of supply.
3. Conduct an electrical systems ‘health check’
Performing an electrical ‘health check’ of current electrical systems, incorporating an evaluation of the extent to which AFDDs are needed, should be a key first step when looking to retrofit these devices. To keep nuisance tripping to a minimum and ensure that all faults are easily diagnosed, it may also be worth considering switchgear which combines arc fault detection with other fault detection systems.
While this latest guidance is unlikely to require significant changes to the way engineers conduct electrical installations, taking the time to absorb the new detail provided in this area should allow them to boost their own compliance, whilst raising standards of all-important health and safety in the workplace.