An Arc Flash occurs when an electrical discharge travels through the air and releases an intense burst of energy. This flash is capable of causing serious harm to anyone caught by it, so adequate Arc Flash protection is of the utmost importance.
An electric arc, also known as an arc discharge, occurs when an electrical discharge or short circuit moves through the air. Voltage spikes, worn connections, cable strikes or gaps in insulation are just some of the reasons that an Arc Flash occurs. A flash of intense energy is the result.
The energy expelled by an Arc Flash event can be deadly, with temperatures reaching up to 35,000ºF or more than 19,000ºC. It goes without saying; this can burn clothing and human skin within fractions of a second, even if the operative is situated five or six metres away from the Arc Flash event.
An Arc Flash can result in an explosive pressure wave that can throw workers across the room and a sound blast that can rupture eardrums. It is also accompanied by a bright flash which can cause temporary or even permanent blindness.An Arc Flash incident should be recognised as a real danger to your team. Take a look at this ultra slo-mo film of an Arc Flash incident
WHY DO YOU NEED ARC FLASH PROTECTION?
Thermal energy from an Arc Flash incident can be deadly. When someone is exposed to an Arc Flash incident, serious burns and other potentially life threatening injuries can be minimised and even avoided by effectively utilising Arc Flash garments.
An Arc Flash event may not be a daily occurrence in your business, but they are happening multiple times every working day in the UK. Risk assessment and precautions through safe working practices can be instigated by your company, and that will limit the possibility of an Arc Flash incident. These Arc Flash studies assess and analyse the risks in your working environment.
Wearing the correct Arc Flash protective garments for a specific risk level will further increase safety. There will always remain a risk, but there is significant Arc Flash protection available through wearing the correct garments.
IS ARC FLASH PROTECTION REQUIRED IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
Arc Flash incidents are common across industries such as power generation, utilities, industrial electrical and the rail industry. Arc Flash protective clothing can help prevent serious burns and permanent injury to those working in these sectors.
If you operate in any of these five key industry sectors, you should be considering Arc Flash protection for your team.
- Power Generation – Your team are at risk of an Arc Flash incident inside and outside power stations
- Utilities – Workers in the field require protection from Arc Flash dangers, especially if they are breaking ground on a regular basis
- Petrochemicals – We know that awareness of Arc Flash dangers is now an integral part of your risk assessments. Arc Flash garments are becoming the safety clothing of choice for many in this sector
- Rail – Arc Flash protection on the railways is vital. Arc Flash protective garments are available that comply with the special requirements of UK regulations for high visibility
- Industrial Electrical – Those working with high voltage power supplies, in distribution centres and industrial and commercial maintenance teams are all at risk of Arc Flash incidents. Make sure they are protected
Take a look at what makes ProGARM the leading Arc Flash protection specialist in the UK. You can also browse our online catalogue of Arc Flash garments.
HOW DO I KNOW IF WE NEED ARC FLASH PPE?
Keeping your team safe is always top priority. And your team need to be protected against an Arc Flash incident if there is a risk of one occurring whilst they work.If your teams work in the above industries or close to sources of high voltage, there is a good chance they need to be protected. Your first step may be to conduct an Arc Flash study at your site. An Arc Flash study is a risk assessment of a workplace environment that determines Arc Flash hazards. An expert in electrical safety conducts an assessment to ensure that a company understands the risks their workplace poses to their team and how to protect against them. Assessment providers may also offer training to increase your team’s awareness and options for periodic reviews.
WHAT DOES AN ARC FLASH STUDY INVOLVE?How big would the bang be? That is the central question that an Arc Flash study seeks to answer. Only by knowing this can you adequately protect your team against the Arc Flash risks of their working environment. An Arc Flash study will identify areas of low risk, as well as those at high risk of an Arc Flash incident. This allows you to tailor your Arc Flash protection strategy accordingly. The study will also assess the potential severity of injury at a given distance and locate the protection boundary at which there is a severe danger of second-degree burns. There are many facets to a successful Arc Flash assessment and generally, they are adapted to fit your specific industry and requirements. They can include Arc Flash calculations, fault level studies and comprehensive site surveys.
WHO NEEDS TO CARRY OUT AN ARC FLASH STUDY?Companies in the UK are not currently obliged to perform Arc Flash assessments on their sites. This is in stark opposition to the USA, where there is more awareness about the dangers of Arc Flash incidents. An Arc Flash study may be optional, but the positive impact on safety within your organisation is likely to be significant. Arc Flash protective clothing is vital to protect your team should they be at risk. An Arc Flash study will highlight what level of protection is needed, allowing you to make an informed decision about your team’s Arc Flash protective clothing requirements. Arc Flash garments are available from specialist Arc Flash and non-specialist suppliers – we believe that when lives are at stake that you should trust a specialist. All garments that are rated for Arc Flash protection conform to EN Standards, but not all Arc Flash garments are created equal.
Arc Flash protection is found in specialist garments – everything from insulating warm Arc Flash base layers to Arc Flash waterproof jackets and trousers. Enhanced and effective Arc Flash protection comes through wearing layers of protective garments manufactured from inherent fibres and which feature specific Arc Flash resilient components. In addition, the level of protection or Arc Rated Category and other information about the garment’s level of protection should be clearly visible.
Not all Arc Flash protective garments are manufactured the same. Whilst many garments meet minimum standards you need to ensure that the level of protection and quality of garment are sufficient to provide the protection the wearer needs.
Quality Arc Flash protective garments from ProGARM won’t simply allow you to survive an incident, they will significantly reduce the level of injury that is sustained.
We believe when lives are at stake you should trust a specialist. Someone who is using 100% inherent fibres, that develops highly durable garments that will continue to offer a high level of protection throughout the life of the garment and that has a high level of production rigour to ensure a consistent quality and garment traceability.
MITCHELL’S ARC FLASH STORYDespite many believing an Arc Flash is only a risk in high voltage situations, in reality, an Arc Flash remains a serious danger even when working in low voltage environments. ProGARM’s specialist Arc Flash PPE protected Mitchell from serious injury
ARC FLASH CAN BE A SERIOUS DANGER EVEN WHEN WORKING IN LOW VOLTAGE ENVIRONMENTS
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ARC FLASH?
ARC FLASH CAUSE – EQUIPMENT FAILUREIt stands to reason that if equipment fails or is improperly designed or installed, an Arc Flash incident could be caused. Faulty system design can also contribute to an increased likelihood of Arc Flash incidents, also known as electrical flashovers. Damage to insulation, gaps, or wear and tear can also create the pathways needed for an unwanted electric discharge through the air. Exposed live parts or loose connections could also be the culprits. Regular inspections of your electrical systems and equipment will help to predict and prevent Arc Flash incidents.
ARC FLASH CAUSE – SPONTANEOUSThere are other factors which can increase the likelihood of an Arc Flash incident. These causes include:
- Corrosion of electrical equipment
- A build up of dust, which can conduct an electrical charge
- Moisture or vapor, which can also conduct an electrical charge
- Animal contact – mice, for example, can create the route needed for an Arc Flash to occur