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3 Common Arc Flash Hazards and Their Causes

3 Common Arc Flash Hazards and Their Causes

One of the many hazards electricians face on a daily basis is an arc flash. An arc flash occurs when an undesired electrical arc travels through the air or from a conductor to the ground, causing an immediate explosion. The blast’s temperature can reach up to 35,000°F, which is hot enough to vaporize metal, rupture eardrums, and cause severe injuries and fatal burns in just 1/1000 of a second. Because of this, electricians take every precaution necessary to ensure their safety when they’re out in the field.

However, even if workers have undergone extensive training and are using Arcpro protective clothing for electricians, their health and safety are still at risk. When the following factors are mixed with the unpredictability of electricity, it can lead to a deadly arc flash:

Operator Errors

Accidents can happen due to operator errors even with very experienced operators. Workers who are distracted, working under pressure, overtired, or overconfident may overlook safety procedures and unwittingly drop tools into the high-powered electrical equipment. Sometimes forgetting to use an insulated tool or using items that are not designed for the job can be the issue. Being negligent in this line of work can lead to the following serious consequences:

  • Loss of memory or function from concussions
  • Damage to eyesight
  • Hearing loss
  • Second to third-degree burns
  • Nerve damage
  • Physical injuries due to being knocked off by the explosion
  • Death

Unclean Worksite

Areas that are riddled with dust, overrun by pests, or affected by moisture damage have a high risk of causing an arc flash. Dust build-up can create a faulted path in the electrical current, causing the current to be drawn to another conductor. Vermin crawling in and out of switchboard openings can also be seen as another conductor, leading to the same result. Moisture that’s near a conductive surface, on the other hand, can cause electricity to escape through the water. When an arc flash occurs, the electricity is immediately led to the location of the liquid, creating a devastating shock.

Damaged Equipment

Incorrectly installed and neglected equipment has a higher chance of causing an arc flash. For example, electrical components that are showing signs of damage due to corrosion expose conductive surfaces to the elements. These surfaces then create resistance and heat, which are the two most common culprits of an arc flash.

Tips to Minimize Arc Flash Hazards

It takes more than wearing the appropriate safety gear and years of experience to protect electricians from an arc flash. That’s why electricians should take note of the following tips to help minimize arc flash hazards:

  • Regularly attend safety training and risk awareness seminars
  • Check the safety level of the worksite before starting any project
  • Use the right tools when working
  • Ensure that the warning labels of the electrical equipment are correct
  • Remember to de-energize electrical equipment and use reliable racking technology when working outside the arc flash boundary

Arc flash incidents are serious electrical hazards that can jeopardize the lives of electricians. For this reason, it’s good to be familiar with the common arc flash hazards and their causes to prevent them from occurring in the worksite.

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by Harvey Carr // Harvey Carr is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.