Arc Flash Hazard: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself

06.17.2022

What is an Arc Flash Hazard? Arc flash (also known as flashover) is a very dangerous event that can happen in any electrical system. Temperatures at the source of an arc flash can reach 20,000°C. In this blog you will understand how an arc flash occurs, the impact an arc flash can have on the human body and the thermal energy submitted by an arc flash.

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What is an arc flash hazard

Arc Flash Hazards, The Occurrence

An arc flash occurs when an electrical current leaves its intended path and travels through the air between conductors or a conductor and the ground. An example could be if an insulating system fails, such as during a maintenance or repair operation.

Anytime you work in proximity to energized equipment with sufficient voltage to cause an electric shock, an arc flash could occur.  This could result in severe burns, blindness and bodily harm to yourself or others. We now categorise based on the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E. Measurement is an incident energy analysis.

Severe Burns, Blindness and Bodily Harm

When an arc flash occurs, it can result in death, severe burns and blindness. The severity of these injuries is dependent on how much voltage was flowing through the equipment. Low-voltage arc flash hazards will cause little to no damage while a high-voltage arc flash can result in death or third degree burns across large areas of your body.

A typical arc flash event will cause at least one eye to be burned by heat from the light emitted during this occurrence. If you are wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), neither eye should be affected by any heat from this event. However, some very unlucky workers have lost both eyes due to repeated exposure and carelessness when dealing with electricity.

Thermal Energy from an Arc Flash

An arc flash is a powerful burst of electricity that occurs when voltage levels in a circuit are above the minimum needed to light the lamp. The thermal energy from an arc flash is on average around 15 times higher than that of a short circuit.

A key difference between an arc flash and electrical shock is in its release of heat. This can cause serious burns or death if you’re caught in it. If you see sparks coming from your tools or work area, disconnect yourself from the power source immediately before taking any further action.

There are various ways to prevent electric shocks such as using insulated gloves when working with high-voltage lines. However, these precautions don’t protect against arc flashes since they involve high amounts of current passing through metal that heats up very quickly.

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