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Home / Technical Articles / Arc Flash Hazard Calculation In 9 Steps Using IEEE 1584

Arc Flash Hazard – Safe practices

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) published the IEEE 1584 “Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations”. It contains detailed methods and data that can be used to calculate arc flash hazards for the simplest to the most complex systems.

Arc Flash Hazard Calculation In 9 Steps Using IEEE 1584
Arc Flash Hazard Calculation In 9 Steps Using IEEE 1584 (photo credit:

IEEE spent many years developing these methods. They are based on empirical testing of class RK1 and class L fuses, low voltage molded case circuit breakers (MCCB), insulated case circuit breakers and low voltage power circuit breakers as well as theoretical modeling.

Included in IEEE 1584 are spreadsheet programs that simplify the calculation of incident energy and flash-protection boundaries.

Download Spreadsheet

IEEE 1584 does not address the Safety related Work Pratices in the same manner as NFPA 70E. It concerns itself primarily with performing the calculations that may be necessary to determine safe practices. The calculation methods in Annex D of NFPA 70E are based on IEEE 1584, but do not contain all the data or descriptions of how these methods were developed.

IEEE 1584 outlines 9 steps necessary to properly perform an Arc Flash hazard calculation //

Step #1

Collect the system and installation data.

Depending on whether you are doing a complete site analysis or looking at one individual portion, this step can take a few minutes or several weeks to perform. Begin by reviewing the latest up-to-date single line diagram(s) of the equipment or system you are analyzing. If single line diagrams are not available, you must create them! The utility can provide you with the available fault MVA and X/R ratio at the entrance to your facility.

If you generate your own electricity, or if you have emergency or standby generators and large motors, a more detailed analysis must be performed.

In order to calculate the bolted fault current available at the point of your application, you must record on your single line diagram all transformers and their ratings, circuit breakers or fusible distribution circuits and their ratings, MCC’s, and all other equipment between the power source and the area you are concerned with.

Next, you must record the size, type, length, and number of cables or busbars, etc. used between the utility and the distribution and control equipment being analyzed. The type of conduit or raceway must also be recorded.

All transformer data must be recorded including MVA ratings and impedance, and all overcurrent protective devices must be identified with their specific characteristics or trip ratings recorded.

Step #2

Determine the system modes of operation.

Most installations have only one mode of operation with one utility connection. However, larger industrial or commercial buildings or manufacturing plants may have two or more utility feeders with tie switching of two or more transformers, or co-generators running in parallel (example shown below).

Each mode can be very complex and require a detailed hazard analysis.

Co-Generation Configuration Example
Co-Generation Configuration Example (scheme credit: GE)

Step #3

Determine the bolted fault currents.

You can perform hand calculations or use commercially available software programs to calculate the bolted fault currents at all points between the utility and the distribution or control equipment you are analyzing.

It will be necessary to plug in all of the data you have recorded about the transformers, cable sizes and lengths, and type of conduit, etc. used in each installation to determine the bolted fault currents.

Step #4

Determine the arc fault currents.

After determining the bolted fault currents, IEEE 1584 provides a formula to calculate the predicted arc fault current due to typical arc impedance and other factors.

The predicted arc fault current for system voltages under 1kV depends on the bolted fault current, system voltage, arc gap, and whether the arc would most likely occur in the open air or in an enclosed box configuration.

Step #5

Find the protective device characteristics and the duration of the arcs.

From the data collected in Step 1 and the predicted arc fault current determined in Step 4, the next step is to establish the total clearing time of the overcurrent protective device immediately on the LINE side of the equipment you are analyzing.

If the fuse manufacturer or circuit breaker manufacturer publishes maximum and minimum clearing times, it is important to use the maximum clearing time possible for the predicted arc fault current.

NOTE // This step can be omitted if the overcurrent protective devices are those already tested and listed in the IEEE 1584 document.

Step #6

Document the system voltages and classes of equipment.

Make sure you document the system voltages and class of equipment such as 15kV switchgear, 5kV switchgear, low voltage switchgear, low voltage motor control centers (MCC) and panelboards, or cable runs.

Step #7

Select the working distances.

IEEE 1584 has established three typical working distances for different classes of equipment. As previously discussed, incident energy calculations and Hazard Risk Categories will depend on the working distances selected.

Step 8

Determine the incident energy for all equipment

You can use formulas included in the IEEE 1584 document or commercially available software to calculate the incident energy possible in cal/cm2 at the working distance selected.

Step 9

Determine the flash protection boundary for all equipment

The formulas given within IEEE 1584 can be used to determine the distance from the arc at which the onset of a second degree burn will occur to unprotected skin. This distance must be established and will vary based on system parameters.

Software programs automatically calculate the distance based on the arc fault current, system voltage, arc gap, and arc flash duration.

If the overcurrent protective devices (OCPD) are something other than those covered by IEEE 1584, or if the voltage levels and short circuit currents exceed the IEEE 1584 limitations, then the opening times of the overcurrent protective devices must be analyzed and the corresponding Flash Protection Boundary and incident energy must be calculated by another method.

Reference // Electrical Safety Hazards Handbook – Littelfuse

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Hannah Duong
    Nov 22, 2019

    This article is very useful. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Ibrahim Fares
    Dec 04, 2016

    We are in Eaton developers an Arc Free MCC. Please check out our new technology, the LV MCC called CXH.

    • Eugenio Roncelli
      Apr 12, 2017

      The solution are “arc flash resistant” switchboards: EN regulations on this issue are quite clear.
      Consider that in most European countries these are the only type of switchboards available on the market.

  3. frans eilering
    Feb 12, 2016

    IEEE 1584 explains how to calculate the arc flash. Just put it in Excel and calculate.

    The way people try to impress me with a protected Excel file with locked forms, is bad. Just look at the layout!! If I want to to calculate the arc flash at different distances I have to insert the data over and over again. And the layout. My screen is completely filled. As if it is so important.
    If I do not insert all data there is an error message
    “ERROR! PLEASE KEY-IN ALL THE REQUIRED INFORMATION” The program can not tell what information is missing.
    There are four checkboxes at the bottom. Without an explanantion.Competely black I think it’s about the equimpment. But I do not know what happens when I select them. I have to look in the help file. I can select all checkboxes!! I if I do I get a message “PLEASE SELECT ONE”. I would have used radio buttons.

    If I close it Excel quits. Why?

    I did the same. Very easy. I even created a data table where I can insert several transformers. It’s not properly aligned here, but that’s detail

    1000kVA 630kVA 400kV 250kVA
    147,32 27,05 21,6 13,97 8,84
    0,1 17,9 14,7 10,1 6,7
    0,5 89,7 73,7 50,3 33,7
    1 179,4 147,3 100,6 67,4
    1,5 269,1 221,0 150,9 101,1
    2 358,7 294,6 201,2 134,8

    There is no way to upload my Excel otherwise I did.

    Frans Eilering

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