Are you protected against an arc flash?
Posted on 20th January 2020
Although health and safety are always taken seriously in industrial settings, the dangers and risks of an arc flash aren’t always recognised.
An arc flash is an electrical explosion that can happen in all types of industrial and electrical environments including utilities, civil engineering and railways.
The effects of an arc flash
Hotter than the sun and louder than a bullet, an arcing fault releases a lot of energy and can vaporise metal and super-heat the air. The pressure waves they cause can throw you across a room and create molten shrapnel.
Electrical arcing can happen when there are spikes in voltage, if there are worn connections or gaps in insulation and if underground cables are struck. While arcing is recognised as a risk in high-voltage environments they can also happen in low-voltage installations.
The risks of an arc flash
An arc flash can burn your clothes and skin a fraction of a second, even if you are several metres away. The explosive pressure that can throw you across a room and break bones, and the sound can rupture your eardrums. The accompanying bright flash can cause temporary or even permanent blindness.
Protection against arc flashes
Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes outer and under layers. Although the flames caused by an arc flash might not touch your skin through your protective outer layers, the high temperature can melt materials like nylon, cotton, and polypropylene. This means that base layers including leggings, tops and underwear need to be resistant to melting in extreme heat.
Flame retardant clothes aren’t sufficient and there are safety standards for arc flash protective clothing. They must have higher tear resistance and strength than fire-resistant clothing, have fire resistant seams and no exposed metal.
Tagged as: Electrical safety
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