Arc flashes can be extremely dangerous, especially for workers. If you’re in the path of an arc flash, it could mean a one-way ticket to your nearest burn center to treat your injuries. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), “An arc flash is a sudden release of electrical energy through the air when a high-voltage gap exists and there is a breakdown between conductors.
“An arc flash gives off thermal radiation (heat) and bright, intense light that can cause burns and other injuries. Temperatures have been recorded as high as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposure to these extreme temperatures burns the skin directly and ignites the clothing that you are wearing.”
With a high-voltage arc, the air can heat up, creating an arc blast, which can hit a worker with so much force, it’s like a grenade that sends metal droplets from electrical components that melted, sending them shooting out at speeds up to 700 miles per an hour. That’s fast enough for the shrapnel-like droplets to penetrate a worker’s body.
Causes of an Arc Flash
There can be numerous causes of an arc flash, such as dropped tools, conductive dust that has built up, corrosion, or electrical contacts being bridged with a conducting object, etc. Even though there have been great advances in equipment design and safety technology to prevent arc flashes from occurring, they still occur.
The ESFI reports that “Each year, 2,000 workers are admitted to burn centers for treatment of severe arc flash burns.” If you happen to work on energized equipment, you’re at risk of injury or death from an arc flash. The best way to prevent an electrical injury or fatality is to de-energize the equipment that you’re working on.
While this may take some extra planning on your part, it could prevent injuries or even save your life. As someone who works with energized equipment, you have a responsibility to yourself. Our advice is to be proactive by de-energizing equipment and making sure your work environment is as safe as possible.