Three tips for worker arc flash safety

Companies need to take necessary steps to prevent an arc flash incident such as identifying potential areas where an incident might occur and ensuring workers have access to proper safety equipment like personal protective equipment (PPE).

By David Manney, L&S Electric October 5, 2016

Working with electricity can be risky business, but it doesn’t need to put you in harm’s way. Companies need to make sure their staff knows how to work with high voltage in case an arc flash incident occurs. Risks can be minimized or eliminated if companies and workers abide by the necessary safety measures.

Although there are many ways in which electricity is harmful, never underestimate the possibility for arc flash. When one occurs, electric current is not traveling along its intended path. It moves to ground either through the air or from one conductor to another.

An arc flash happens very quickly and the possibility of human injury is very real. The temperatures can be three times hotter than the surface of the sun. The noise from an arc flash event is as loud as a shotgun. There’s also the danger of flying metal shrapnel and fall hazards for workers above ground level.

Some causes are traced to human error. Some of the more common problems that may lead to this problem include corrosion, dropped tools, equipment failure, or dust. Reducing the possibility and limiting the associated injuries require planning and strict adherence to rules established by OSHA.

Arc flash safety tips 

  • Identify employees in an arc flash area: If anyone is working in an area where arc flash is a possibility, they should understand the dangers and be aware of what steps should be taken to avoid the problem.
  • Arc flash survey: Companies should understand the potential locations for an arc flash event at a facility. It is not only necessary to know if it is a possibility, but companies need to know how much heat energy is possible in the area as well. An arc flash survey accomplishes this. Once that is done, the company needs to take appropriate steps to ensure that enough protection is available in that area.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): When working in a zone where arc flash is possible, protective clothing and other protective equipment should be provided for the employee. It should be at or above the level of the possible arc flash that could occur. Providing employees PPE is part of the solution and ensuring that they are worn is critical to their safety.

Do not underestimate arc flash. Determining the areas in a facility where it might occur and taking the necessary steps to protect employees provides a safer working environment for everyone.

David Manney is a marketing administrator at L&S Electric. This article originally appeared on L&S Electric Watts New Blog. L&S Electric Inc. is a CFE Media content partner.

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