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Arc Flash: Are you at risk?

Hamilton Smith, technical sales manager at specialists in Arc Flash protective wear, ProGARM, shines a spotlight on the life changing risks an Arc Flash incident can create. Here he highlights nine shocking (but lesser known) Arc Flash facts. But first, what exactly is an Arc Flash?

You may know that you’re at risk of an Arc Flash incident, but when it comes to the severity and real dangers posed by such an event, it’s rare that teams are fully in the loop.

An Arc Flash happens when an electrical discharge travels through the air and releases an intense burst of energy. This occurs when an electrical discharge or short circuit moves through the air as a result of voltage spikes, worn connections, cable strikes or gaps in insulation. This flash is capable of causing serious harm to anyone caught by it, but here are some of the less known, yet shocking facts about an Arc Flash and the damage they can cause:

Although there are many complex reasons an Arc Flash occurs, they can also happen by simply a rodent, tool or other component being in the breaker area that compromises the distance between energised components. This means you never truly know if you’re at real risk or not. The solution – always ensure you are protected against an Arc Flash incident.

An Arc Flash can produce some of the highest temperatures known to occur on Earth. The heat released in the initial blast of an electrical arc can reach over 36,000F, which is four times hotter than the surface of the sun.

All known materials are vaporised at this temperature, which causes an open expansion of air. These blast pressure waves are so powerful they can throw a worker across a room.

An Arc Flash is not simply bursts of intense heat and light, it is also incredibly powerful. During an Arc Flash incident, copper expands at 67,000 times its volume. The arcs spray droplets of molten metal at speeds that exceed 700mph, which can penetrate a worker’s body standing up to 10 feet away.

The extreme temperature of an Arc Flash combined with the blast pressure waves can ignite a worker’s clothes who is 10 feet away from the initial blast.

An Arc Flash blast can have a sound magnitude of 140dB at a distance of two feet from the arc. A sound this loud can result in long-term hearing loss.

The light generated from an Arc Flash can cause temporary and sometimes permanent blindness.

Although the exact number of Arc Flash incidents is unknown, researches have concluded that around 10% of electrical injuries are caused by an Arc Flash and not just a simple electric shock.

Industries at most risk of Arc Flash incidents are generally those in continuous use such as rail, power generation, utilities and construction.

The moral of the story is, it is absolutely vital you ensure that your workforce is protected from any potential Arc Flash incidents, and not only physically. Personal protective equipment will only do so much, and will do nothing without the correct knowledge of the risks, training and due diligence.

For more information on the risks of Arc Flash and how to protect your workforce, visit the ProGARM website. Stay safe.

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