The first rule of workplace safety is understanding the risks, but when it comes to an Arc Flash, there are so many myths that crop up, making it hard to know what the real risks are and how to mitigate them.
Occurring when an electrical discharge or short circuit moves through the air, an Arc Flash is caused by voltage spike, worn connections, cable strikes or gaps in insulation.
The energy expelled by an Arc Flash can be deadly, with temperatures reaching up to more than 19,000ºC. It goes without saying, this can burn clothing and human skin within fractions of a second, injuring anyone within a five to six metre radius.
At the same time, 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.
The following video shows the very real danger of breaking ground and striking an underground cable.
As Arc Flash protection specialists, we at ProGARM have addressed some of the most commonly believed myths around Arc Flashes to help you keep you and your team safe at work.
ARC FLASH MYTH 6 – Arc Flash is only a risk in welding, not other tasks
BUSTED – Arc Flash incidents are common across industries such as power generation, utilities, industrial electrical and the rail industry. Those working with power supplies, whether high or low voltage, in distribution centres and industrial and commercial maintenance teams are all at risk of Arc Flash incidents. Teams working in the power generation sector are constantly at risk of being exposed to an Arc Flash. Cable strikes when breaking ground are also a significant threat.
ARC FLASH MYTH 7 – Cotton underwear and socks are fine, it’s synthetic fibres I need to avoid in order to stay safe
BUSTED – To survive the intensity of an Arc Flash, it’s essential that all your base layer clothing – including underwear – is safety approved and appropriately Arc Flash-resistant. Lab tests have proven this to be substantially more effective at reducing burns. Non-melting clothing (such as cotton, wool, silk and leather) offers no protection against ignition and could cause serious burns in a fire or arc flash incident.
Arc Flash base layers, including leggings and long-sleeve tops as well as underwear are designed to contribute to Arc Flash protection and can be comfortably worn under all our other Arc Flash protective clothing.
ARC FLASH MYTH 8 – Safety glasses/sunglasses will be enough to protect my eyes in an Arc Flash
BUSTED – Safety glasses or sunglasses offer protection only to your eyes, leaving the rest of your face exposed. A full-face visor is recommended to provide the protection you need in an Arc flash incident. In addition, safety or sunglasses are generally made of plastic, which will melt in the 19,000ºC temperatures generated by an Arc Flash. Our visors will protect your face from burns, your eyes from bright light and are tough enough to withstand the impact of any masonry or other projectiles caused by an explosion.
ARC FLASH MYTH 9 – I’ve never seen an Arc Flash so it can’t possibly happen to me
BUSTED – 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. Alarmingly, our own research revealed that a staggering 57% of electrical workers had first-hand experience of an Arc Flash incident having either experienced or seen someone else suffer a strike during their career. This suggests the frequency of Arc Flash incidents is far higher than officially reported electrical incident statistics might suggest. The HSE states that around 1,000 workplace electrical incidents are reported to them each year, with around 25 people a year dying from their injuries. Read more about the frequency of Arc Flash incidents here.
Risk assessment and precautions through safe working practices will limit the possibility of an Arc Flash incident but won’t eliminate the risk. Wearing the correct Arc Flash protective garments for a specific risk level will further increase safety.
While it’s difficult to eliminate the risk of an Arc Flash entirely, knowing the truth versus fiction when it comes to these incidents can be the difference between surviving relatively unscathed and serious, long term injury or even death. For our full range of Arc Flash clothing, visit www.progarm.com
If you want the truth about the latest Arc Flash myth, along with information about what personal protective equipment you need for your team, call our experts on +44 (0) 1482 679600.
This is one post in a series ‘All about Arc Flash’. Continue reading the next in the series or return to the start if you like.
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