Have you ever been shocked when you touched a doorknob, a car-door handle, or a water fountain? Ouch right! Well imagine that shock exceeding 10,000° F, which is hotter than the surface of the sun. Even bigger ouch!! Well that’s what would happen if you were in an Arc Flash. As an electrician, you might be wondering what exactly is an Arc Flash and how could it affect you and your job. I know it has definitely sparked my interest.
An Arc Flash is an intense release of injury caused by an electrical arc fault between two conductors. The flash and ensuing blast result in a violent explosion that contains intense heat and energy. The massive electrical energy released in the fault rapidly vaporizes the metal conductors involved, blasting molten metal and expanding plasma outward with extraordinary force. A typical arc flash incident can be minor but could easily produce a more severe explosion. And the results of an Arc Flash are devastating to both the equipment and workers.
During an Arc Flash event, destruction of the equipment involved can result in expensive replacement costs and downtime. Severe burns are the most common injury to electrical workers and likely will result in permanent damage or death. Other injuries can include blindness, hearing damage and internal injuries from the blast. An Arc Flash is a serious Life Safety issue, which is why an Arc Flash Assessment is an essential part of a compliant electrical safety program.
An Arc Flash Assessment is an engineering study of the electrical distribution system that is designed to determine the energy levels and boundary distances. Identifying the degree of hazard allows the worker to choose the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working on the energized panel, including testing and troubleshooting.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E requires an Arc Flash Assessment that includes Energy Calculations & Arc Flash Labels that identify PPE and must be performed at a minimum of every five years.