What is Arc Flash

Accidents can occur in the workplace, this is acceptable, what is not acceptable is when they become a normal occurrence. Understanding different workplace related accidents are important, it allows for prevention and protection from such problems and also avoids injuries. Today we shall focus on Arc flash.

What is Arc Flash?

The way we can define this is that it is caused by two-phase bus bars (neutral or ground) having an arcing fault between them. This results in the rapid release of energy. In this kind of a scenario, the air usually acts as the conductor. Simply defined it is when an unwanted discharge of electricity travels through the air between conductors or from a conductor to ground.

Arc faults normally happen on systems with a bus voltage exceeding 120 volts. Although it might occur at lower voltage levels, it normally doesn’t because they lack the ability to sustain an arc. The fault that leads to the problem has to be started by something manually creating the path for insulation or a breakdown in the insulation itself.

An arc flash could cause some serious problems such as fires and harm to equipment and people alike. The temperatures from such a process could exceed 35,000°F which is capable of vaporizing metal and spreading plasma and molten metal in all directions. Damage is usually caused by the resulting explosion as well as the heat that is formed after the blast. There are some measures that could be taken to stop an arc flash and they are as follows:

How to Stop an Arc Flash

In order to prevent an arc flash from happening there have been industry standards that have been put in place and they are as follows:

– OSHA 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910 Subpart S

OSHA in itself deals in making sure that workplace safety practices are enforced. This subpart actually states that the safety practices that have been put in place in the workplace shall be used to ensure that no injury happens as a result of direct or indirect electrical contacts. There are a number of requirements but that’s just the basics of it.

– NFPA 70-2002, National Electric Code

This standard requires that facilities provide a safety program for the workers and that is should include defined responsibilities. It should also train the workers and provide tools that are safe to be used for work. In addition, equipment should also have warning labels and the workers should be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Some of the other safety standards are such as the NFPA 70E and the IEEE Standard that are also in place to ensure that work safety is taken into consideration when working on electrical equipment to avoid an arc flash. The NFPA 70E has some similar guidelines to the NFPA70-2002 while the IEEE provides a method for calculating the anticipated energy incident level. This allows the facility owner to make an informed decision about the level of PPE that the workers should wear when dealing with certain equipment.

There are some measures that can be taken to protect oneself from an arc flash and they are as follows:

– The electrical safety policies are important

The policies are usually provided by the company’s officer in charge of the electrical safety department. The policies are in the form of a written document and will provide the much needed information on how to avoid any accident due to an arc flash.

– Read the warning labels

As is the industry standard, the equipment come with a warning label. The warning label contains important information that you need to avoid accidents due to an arc flash. It will provide information on how to avoid it during examination, adjustment and whilst servicing the equipment.

– Training

Training is important, every company is required to train their workers on how to avoid arc flash, so always attend these kinds of events and keep yourself educated. These trainings are specially designed for such situations hence will provide you with much needed knowledge.

– Protective cloths and equipments should be used

There is no need to worry though because again according to industry standards companies are required to provide the equipment and clothing to workers especially in dangerous operations. The type of equipments and clothing to use are always specified on the warning labels, and you can buy online at companies like arcflash.ie, so be sure to check the warning label to know what to use and when.

It’s always very important to protect yourself when using electric equipment because arc flash accidents are very dangerous. They can burn you severely and the pressure waves produced by the blasts can hurt you immensely and can even be fatal. Always follow instructions to the letter and be very careful.

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