Reduce electrical risks in commercial and industrial buildings

Issue 4 2023 Security Services & Risk Management

Eaton has published a new whitepaper to help professionals responsible for electrical systems in commercial and industrial buildings to maximise protection against faults that can endanger workers, damage property, and disrupt business continuity.

The whitepaper, Protecting people, assets and profitability from electrical faults in commercial and industrial buildings, examines the crucial role of circuit breakers in reducing the risks associated with overload, short circuit and potential arc flash incidents.

Following a detailed study of industry trends and regulations, experts from Eaton concluded that even adherence to established international standards governing both circuit breaker specifications and their use may not be sufficient to eliminate the associated risks, especially those which are out of one’s control. For instance, with South Africa’s electricity challenges persisting, minimising power-related risks brought on by potential power surges has become imperative for maintaining the highest levels of fire safety in commercial and industrial buildings.

In the low-voltage switchgear, short circuit currents can reach many multiples of the rated current of the protective devices. Arc flashes at temperatures of over 10 000°C can be generated, which raises the risk of damage to equipment, downtime and stoppages. Arc flashes also endanger the lives of personnel, particularly when a cabinet is opened for maintenance or servicing work.

Devan Reddy, Field Product Manager, Industrial Control & Protection Division and Power Distribution Components at Eaton South Africa said, “In order to fully protect people, assets and business continuity from the destabilising effects of short circuits and overloading, as well as reducing the severity of arc flash, it’s vital to ensure circuit breakers meet regulatory standards and that best practice is applied to their fitting and maintenance. However, residual risks remain and to ensure the highest possible protection, specifiers and engineers may need to consider advanced digital circuit breakers with functionality that goes beyond the requirements of the standard.”

While the requirements for circuit breakers have been well-articulated, the introduction of digital trip devices enables today’s circuit breakers to perform functions that expand upon the levels of protection specified in relevant standards.

The newest generation of circuit breakers uses electronic tripping systems, which operate with greater precision than thermal-magnetic trip units and offer superior performance by reliably switching operating current, overload and high short-circuit current. In addition, the current status of the circuit breaker and the electrical data of the circuit can be communicated to enable a more efficient approach to predictive maintenance and energy monitoring.

The latest circuit breakers, such as Eaton’s digital low-voltage NZM range, are economical in a variety of ways: they reduce maintenance expenses, avert downtimes and increase system efficiency, while eliminating the outlay for separate measuring devices.

The white paper is available at

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