When you think about “protection” in a data center, you probably think about protecting critical data, protecting infrastructure, protecting uptime, etc. But, it is also important to think about protecting data center workers. Whether a data center is small or large, due to the large amount of electrical equipment, there are certain safety measures that must be taken to ensure worker safety. One concern that data centers must protect against is “arc-flash.” Data center workers are in a conundrum of sorts – to work on, or perform maintenance on, certain electrical components without risk of arc-flash, electrical power to the components must be turned off. But, often, retaining uptime means that various electrical components cannot be shut off. DataInformed explains what arc-flash is, and why it is such a significant concern in data centers, “An important electrical risk in the data center is arc-flash incidents. Arc-flash incidents, which are caused by arcing from an electrical fault, potentially creating a blast similar to an explosion, happen between five and 10 times a day in U.S. industry and result in one death every single workday. Although data center design, permitting and construction are in adherence to modern electrical safety requirements, data center workers must be trained and competent, and must maintain compliance with all OSHA requirements to keep electrical safety in the data center at its current high standard.”
Not only is maximizing safety to protect against arc-flash important for peace of mind for both employer and employee, but it will help a data center remain OSHA compliant which reduces liability and cuts down on costs. The specifics of how a data center will implement protection against arc-flash are complex and highly individualized. Data centers that do implement best security practices, though, will ultimately improve safety and uptime. When designing infrastructure and preparing a data center it is critical that an arc –flash analysis be completed before a data center is up and running at full capacity. Data Center Knowledge elaborates on what is involved in an arc-flash analysis or study, ““An arc flash study looks at all the electrical components, from the source at the power company, the whole way through to the plugs that you plug into your IT equipment,” Furmanski told us in an interview. “They look at how all the circuit breakers are set up — it’s called a coordination study — and they look at the power going through. They punch in all these formulas to figure out, will these breakers move fast enough if there’s an electrical short, or will they move too slowly and let the capability of an arc flash be created?” If your data center has not recently had an arc-flash analysis, or you are not sure if it ever has, it is incredibly important to complete one as soon as possible to maximize worker safety and uptime.