Electricians, or anyone working near electricity, are presented with multiple safety hazards on a regular basis. One of the most deadly of these hazards is known as arc flash, a dangerous occurrence that can produce some of the hottest temperatures on earth, up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit (4x hotter than the surface of the sun, in case a reference was needed). According to NIOSH, 5 to 10 arc flash incidents occur each day in the US.
Defined as “a phenomenon where a flashover of electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another, or to ground,” arc flashes can be spontaneous or result from inadvertently bridging electrical objects with a conducting one.
Arc flashes can be caused by:
- Dropping tools
- Accidental touching
- Material failure
- Faulty installation
Because of the dangers, OSHA has issued official rules with new or revised requirements for fall protection, minimum approach distances, and arc flash protection. They anticipate avoiding 20 deaths and 118 injuries annually.
There are many methods to protecting against arc flash. The best among them is to de-energize the circuit.
Create electrically safe working conditions by:
1. Identifying all power sources.
2. Interrupting the load and disconnecting power.
3. Visually verifying that a disconnect has opened the circuit,
4. Locking out and tagging the circuit,
5. Testing for voltage
6. Grounding all power conductors.
Make sure you’re properly equipped with the right work gear to protect against arc flash.