Get out of the way when operating switches

By Jeff MacKinnon, P.Eng., PE

When I am developing an Arc Flash Analysis report there are a few recommendations that always survive. They are near the top of the hierarchy of controls, and are set it and forget it type of controls.

One of these is remote actuators and racking mechanisms.

Both of these systems removes the electrical worker outside the arc flash and shock protection boundaries, removing the hazard (Elimination).

Not a new idea

The first paper I read about the importance of getting distance when operating electrical equipment was 7 years ago, but before that I remember an electrician hitting a push-button with a broom handle.

It was an Electrical Safety Workshop paper titled "Removing yourself from hazards during equipment operation". I read it a few years before going to my first workshop.*

Rope and pully system from the 2012 paper

There have been a few advances in remote operation technology since this paper.

What is a remote operator?

A remote actuator is a method to open or close a switch or breaker remotely. For most power circuit breakers this may just mean relocating the Open/close push buttons outside the boundaries.

RSA-2 from ArcSafe is an example of remote pushbutton operator

For handle operated switches this means adding a device to the unit that will mechanically or electrically move the switch into the desired position.

Operating a properly maintained breaker/switch in its normal position isn't a high risk activity. If the state of the equipment is not known or if there isn't a current Arc Flash analysis, it may be prudent to do as much remote operation as possible

What does remote racking look like?

Remote racking on the other hand can be a high risk activity, and depending on the electrode configurations added in IEEE 1584-2018, the arc could be ejected toward the worker.

Remote breaker racking is where the industry is moving as a standard. Both for new construction and by using remote operators on existing equipment.

I'm not connected with CBS ArcSafe in any manner. I've specified their equipment for clients and haven't had any issues with their equipment.

* If you want to get the best and most current information regarding electrical safety, the Electrical Safety Workshop is a annual conference that needs to be on your list. I try to go every couple years to catch up on all the changes in the industry.