Short circuits are something we’ve all heard of or have perhaps even dealt with. We’ve definitely been warned not to get our toast out of the toaster with a metal fork or knife! But in the workplace, short circuits can be a major concern. To ensure the safety of your entire team and to make sure you’re complying with OSHA standards at all times, you should consider having a short circuit analysis performed in your workplace. But what exactly is a short circuit analysis, and why is it important in the first place?
What is a Short Circuit Analysis?
To understand what a short circuit analysis is, we should quickly define what a short circuit itself is. When an electrical circuit is running normally, electricity runs along a specified pathway called a “loop.” This closed circuit keeps the electricity contained. However, electricity always wants to take the shortest path available, so if another material or object interferes with the loop, the electricity will follow that shorter pathway and create a short circuit.
A short circuit analysis, then, involves bringing a professional into your workplace to identify where short circuits could potentially happen within your electrical system. This analysis (also referred to as a “short circuit study”) can not only identify points of risk, but your professional will also be able to repair any faults that they find, leading to a safer and more reliable system as a whole.
Why Short Circuits are Dangerous
We often joke about getting shocked by a short circuit in the classic “fork in the toaster” scenario, but these incidents in the workplace can be much more dangerous than one might imagine. Most homes and workplaces do have some safety measures in place to prevent short circuits; a circuit breaker is probably the most common. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) can also help reduce or eliminate the threat of a short circuit. However, without these measures in place, any work site is potentially subject to a short circuit.
First, short circuits can be caused in more than one way, so it can be hard to identify the potential cause of one (which is why you should bring in a professional!). Short circuits can come from faulty wiring within an appliance or the insulation of the circuit wire, or even from a loose wire connection. If you find a fault in your system and repair it, there could still be another potential cause lurking around that you don’t even know about.
Short circuits can be incredibly dangerous because of how fast they happen. There’s simply no warning when a short circuit is going to begin, and they can cause an insane amount of damage quite quickly. In a best-case scenario, there’s a small shock and someone’s hair stands on end. Unfortunately, short circuits are typically much more serious than this, especially when working in an environment with lots of flowing electricity.
Even if a protective device like a circuit breaker is in place, particularly large fault currents can produce huge releases of energy known as arc blasts. These explosions can result in serious property damage as well as personal injury or even death for the workers around the incident. Flying metal could cause serious injury, and the intense heat of the explosion or shock can lead to burns. In the worst of scenarios, short circuits could result in huge fires that could decimate entire buildings.
Benefits of a Short Circuit Analysis
Short circuits can be a huge risk for your business both to your workers and to your bottom line. If a short circuit occurs on your watch, you could be left facing equipment repairs or replacement costs, injured workers (or even potential fatalities), backlash and potential fines from OSHA, delayed projects, and a major hit to your reputation. Having your workplace regularly inspect for possible short circuit risks is more than a worthwhile investment when you consider all the benefits you’ll receive.
First, you’ll have the foresight of any potential issues within your system before it’s too late. When it comes to electrical work, you never want to leave anything up to chance. Not only will you sleep better at night knowing that your workplace is safe, but your employees will also feel more confident and in control to do their jobs well. In turn, you’ll be able to attract even more talented workers to your company since they’ll know you’re doing everything in your power to provide a safe and efficient workplace.
Performing a short circuit analysis is also a great way to ensure you’re complying with OSHA. Failing to follow OSHA regulations could potentially result in huge fines or could even bar you from working for an indefinite period of time. Keeping your workers and those around you safe should always be the top priority, and opting for a short circuit analysis is a great way to do that.
Finally, having a short circuit analysis performed on your job site allows you to ensure every job is completed on time. If you do experience a short circuit on the job, you could be faced with an indefinite setback as you work to repair your equipment or find new workers to step in for those who have been injured. Losses like these should be avoided at all costs, which is why a short circuit analysis is a small price to pay in light of the benefits.
Short Circuit Analysis from MTAEE
During your short circuit analysis with MTA Electrical Engineers, one of our experienced team members will work to determine the power of the currents that flow throughout your power system under fault conditions. If the protective devices in place aren’t able to handle the short circuit capacity of the system, then there’s a potential risk of short circuits. Your professional will be able to update or repair your equipment, establish the appropriate interrupting ratings of your protective devices, and further guide you on how to protect your personnel.