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February 14, 2019

What is Arc Flash? Answering The Common NFPA 70E Basics

Latest posts by Atlantic Research Team (see all)

“Anything That Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong”

– Murphy’s Law

Believed to only be a rare event, arc flash can happen to any employee at any point when dealing with electrical equipment or machinery. The right conditions can cause a catastrophic event. It’s important employees and employers understand what arc flash is, how it happens, and what can be done to help prevent such disasters.

What is Arc Flash?

Arc Flash is the powerful rapid release of energy when current travels or arcs between two live conductors through the air (or grounds) causing an arc fault. This type of electrical discharge results from a low impedance (low-frequency resistance to a current). As the temperature of the arc increases the electrical resistance decreases which can draw more current. This results in a high-intensity electrical explosion that will cause serious harm or damage not only to employees in the area but machines and equipment as well. The immense heat and light are known as the Arc Flash while the pressure wave that’s caused by this explosion is known as the arc blast.

The intense release of concentrated energy and hot gases create temperatures that reach 35,000 °F (19,400 °C). For reference flowing lava can get up to 1,600 °F (871 °C) and the surface of the sun is 9,000 °F (4,982 °C). This makes the release of energy caused by an Arc Flash almost twenty-two times hotter than lava and four times hotter than the surface temperature of the sun.

Arc Flash Electrical Safety Training

What Can Cause An Arc Flash?

There are multiple factors that can create an environment that will harness an arc flash event. The following are ways this can happen.

What Kind Of Injuries Could You Experience?

Electrocution is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an arc flash injury. Yes, an employee does face that risk but there are other injuries that can be sustained if proper precaution isn’t taken. Below are some other ways that individuals can be hurt when exposed to an arc flash event.

The severity of injuries employees can face are influenced by different factors present during an arc flash event. The following are five primary factors that determine the severity of injuries.

How To Avoid Arc Flash

It all starts with a strong safety training foundation and company enforcement of procedures. Below are several steps that an employer can take to prevent an Arc Flash incident in the workplace:

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