One of the most potentially dangerous aspects of working with electrical circuits is arc flash. This is when a circuit is effectively formed between two points in the air, causing what is known as an electrical arc. This highly volatile situation can cause serious injury, and even fatality, and is often caused by faulty circuits.
Arc flash may last a very, very short time – indeed, it can happen quicker than the blink of an eye – yet in that moment, a colossal amount of heat, light and radiation energy is released. This is what causes the damage. In a standard 220volt system – that used in households – it may not be as big a problem as in any of the industrial level circuits, where much greater voltages – and amperages – are experienced.
So, how to protect against arc flash, and what to do to help prevent it from happening? The truth is there is no 100% guarantee against arc flash, due to the fact it can come about thanks to unseen faults, but there are prevention measures that can and should be taken in order to minimise the possibility of an electrical arc forming.
Electrical Arc Prevention
It is vital that, to prevent against the possibility of arc flash, the causes are understood. This means full training for your team, who need to be aware of the exaggerated points in usage where it may occur.
The fact is that, due to its very nature, arc flash is most likely to occur when switching on a circuit after it has been shut down. This is why there must be set and strict routines involved when it comes to restarting equipment that uses an electrical circuit. A sudden surge of electricity through a circuit will undoubtedly unveil any faults, so careful checking of all circuitry before you start up is vital.
Also, it is highly recommended you use accurate meters to check and ensure that there is no voltage left in a circuit that is apparently switched off. This includes any residual energy, so de-energising equipment is essential. The only problem is that the act of de-energising can in fact be a cause of arc flash. This is because, by its very nature, it involves the release of a potentially great amount of electrical energy, so it needs to be done properly and for its effectiveness to be ensured and checked.
In addition to the prevention of arc flash via the above methods, it is also essential that anyone working in potentially dangerous areas uses protective gear – which you can get at Arc Flash. The main injuries caused by arc flash accidents are burns – usually third-degree and very serious – to the hand, arms and face, and these areas need to be protected by effective and recommended PPE. There is special anti-arc flash PPE clothing available from respected suppliers, so you should ensure your team are fully kitted out with the most up to date gear.
Also, loss of sight thanks to the eyes being badly affected by electrical radiation is another common arc flash injury, and the loud explosive bang that comes with the energy release can be extremely damaging to the hearing. These are other areas where protective equipment should be worn at all times when dealing with electrical circuits.
It remains a fact that, thanks to the immense levels of energy involved, arc flash can be fatal, so all precautions need to be taken to ensure your team understands the problem, how it comes about and how best to minimise its occurrence. Make sure you keep your workforce up to date with all they need to know and fully equipped with the most accurate metering equipment and protective gear.