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Each year, an estimated 2,000 individuals in the United States visit burn centers due to arc flash injuries. Approximately 20% of these burns affect bare skin, while the remaining 80% result from clothing fires. However, nearly all of these incidents could have been prevented with the use of arc flash protection.

Ensuring employee safety in the workplace is paramount, and facility managers must endeavor to minimize hazards. If electrical workers consistently wear proper arc-rated personal protective equipment (PPE), the incidence of such injuries could be significantly reduced. If your facility is at risk of arc flash, reach out to arc flash providers near West Bend, Milwaukee, such as Archer Electric to help you.

It’s crucial to note that electrical work should only be performed by highly skilled and trained professionals. Instilling confidence in these workers regarding their safety while performing tasks can enhance their efficiency.

What Is Arc Flash?

Before delving into what arc flash entails, it’s essential to understand arc faults. Arc faults, also referred to as electrical discharges or explosions, are characterized by two critical factors: arc blasts, which involve extensive force and energy, and arc flashes, which entail high levels of brightness and temperature.

Arc flashes occur when fault currents flow through multiple electrical conductors located in close proximity to each other. This often results in fierce, continuous, and costly explosions, with damages from arc faults frequently reaching millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, arc flashes introduce several hazardous elements into the workplace, including intense light, extreme thermal energy, high or instant acoustic energy, and pressure waves.

Many welders believe that using low-voltage equipment can minimize the risk of arc flash. However, this is not necessarily the case. In reality, the hazard levels of arc flashes may increase at low voltages due to the high fault currents involved in these operations. Moreover, many incidents within low-voltage systems are attributed to human error.

Why is Arc Flash Protection Important?

Arc flash protection is crucial for maintaining the safety of workers and others in the vicinity. It’s important to recognize that arc flashes can result in various hazardous effects for welders, including ear damage, electrocution, blindness, and burns. These flashes can generate extreme levels of heat, with temperatures often exceeding thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, due to the force of the explosion, plasma and molten metal may be released.

In many cases, arc flashes have the potential to completely destroy equipment and cause significant damage to facilities. Common issues associated with arc flashes include fires and short circuits.

Consequently, there is a heightened risk of severe injury for both workers and bystanders. Arc flashes can sometimes cause permanent damage to a person’s nerves and vision. There are even instances where flashes create vaporizing conditions that can significantly affect people, objects, and buildings.

What is Arc Flash Protective Equipment?

Using the appropriate arc flash protection equipment is essential for maintaining the safety of employees and the facility. It’s also crucial that the safety gear meets government standards and third-party guidelines. A facility should have some basic arc flash protection equipment:

  • Safety glasses must be worn at all times during electrical work at any level.
  • Ear protection, including accurate ear inserts, is necessary for any PPE category level. Muff protection alone may not suffice, as arc blasts could dislodge these elements.
  • Head protection should be non-conductive. Hard hats with ventilation penetration may not be suitable, as they are not rated for voltage.
  • Safety shoes must be worn at all times, either non-exposed or leather steel-tipped boots.
  • For hand protection, it’s advisable to wear voltage-rated gloves with leather protectors or heavy-duty leather gloves.

Is Arc Flash Protection a Requirement in All Industries?

Arc flash incidents can occur in various industries such as industrial electrical, utilities, power generation, and the rail industry. Wearing proper arc flash protective garments can help prevent severe burns and permanent injuries for those working in these fields. That’s why if you’re involved in any of these key industries, you should consider arc flash protection for your employees.

  • Industrial Electrical: Workers involved with high-voltage power supplies, commercial and industrial maintenance, as well as distribution centers, can be exposed to arc flash incidents. So, the facility must ensure that their workers are well protected.
  • Utilities: Those working in this field must protect themselves from arc flash hazards, particularly if they frequently break ground.
  • Power Generation: Workers, whether outside or inside power stations, are at risk of arc flash incidents.
  • Rail: Railway workers should consider arc flash protection, with high-visibility arc flash protective garments available.
  • Petrochemicals: Being aware of arc flash hazards is a crucial part of risk assessments in this field. That’s why wearing arc flash garments in this field is a must.

How To Reduce the Risk of Arc Flash

Arc flashes can pose a serious hazard to those involved in electrical systems. They can cause severe damage to equipment and result in serious injury or even death for workers. However, this risk can be significantly reduced by implementing arc flash safety procedures in the workplace.

An arc flash occurs when there is an instantaneous release of energy, creating a path from a component through the air to the ground or to another voltage stage within the same system. This is often caused by loose connections, short circuits in damaged equipment, or exposed live parts.

Additionally, arc flashes can result from careless work practices, particularly when working with live electrical systems.

These explosions can generate highly intense light and heat, causing damage to electrical equipment, eye injuries from extreme UV light emissions, external and internal burns, as well as lung damage from vaporized metals or hot gases. It helps to reach out to arc flash specialists in Wisconsin to help you prevent the risk of this.

Can Arc Flash Be Avoided?

Electrical Services for Industrial Projects - Archer Electric - Green Bay, Wisconsin

With such dangers, it is important to understand how to prevent arc flashes. Aside from turning off the system, it is quite impossible to completely eliminate the hazards. Nevertheless, it is possible that the risks can be reduced, and it is the responsibility of the employer to initiate appropriate assessments.

When possible, electrical equipment should be powered down. Keep in mind that an arc flash can only happen when there is live voltage, hence the simplest mitigation method would be to power down the system.

When it comes to arc flashes, you can always trust Archer Electric LLC. Just call us anytime at 262-352-5722 or email us at