According to the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, arc flash sends nearly 2,000 people to burn centers every year, electrical injuries rank fourth in workplace fatalities and most of these occur when working with less than 600v.
What causes an electric arc hazard?
An electric arc flash (hazard) occurs because of a fault, or short circuit, between an energized electrical conductor, such as a wire or circuit panel bus bar and another object. This electric arc flash can happen through accidental contact, circuits that are under-rated for the current present, contamination of insulated surfaces, deterioration or corrosion of wiring in equipment or parts, or from many other causes.
Electric arc flash temperatures can reach 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the sun. Human skin can be severely burned in a fraction of a second. Any flammable material, including non-flame resistant clothing, may also ignite.
Arc flashes can liquefy or vaporize metal parts such as copper, aluminum conductors or steel equipment parts.
The blast may also spray molten metal throughout the vicinity. Solid metal debris and other loose objects, such as tools, can be turned into deadly projectiles by the explosion. The bright flash from the event can result in temporary or permanent blindness. All of these occurrences will likely result in equipment damage as well as personnel injury, and possibly death.*
*Adapted from: “The Basics of Arc Flash” by Cameron G. Clark, GE Specification Engineer
Who is at risk of electric arc hazard?
Electrical safety is one of the most overlooked work hazards employees face, with electric arc flash being the most prevalent risk when working around energized parts.
- Do your employees work on energized parts, including voltage testing?
- Do they remove or install circuit breakers or fused switches?
- Do they work on control circuits with energized parts greater than 50 volts?
Anyone in your facility who works with or near any worker who performs any of these functions … even casual passers-by may be at risk of electric arc hazard.