The differences between electrocution and Arc Flash injuries

The differences between electrocution and Arc Flash injuries

Understanding the differences between electrocution and Arc Flash injuries is the first step in understanding why you need different protection from the two types of incident.

Here we explain what happens when you’re electrocuted and how that’s different to what happens when you experience an Arc Flash.

What happens when you’re electrocuted?

Electrocution can cause a wide range of injuries. From just creating a tingling in the part of your body where the electric current enters to causing death, the spectrum of injuries is broad.

The HSE says that a voltage as low as 50 volts which passes between two points in the body can cause any of the following symptoms as it blocks electrical signals between the brain and the rest of the body.

Electrocution can cause:

  • Electric shock – which can cause a person to stop breathing, muscle spasms (which can themselves cause bones to break) or loss of muscle control meaning you can’t let go of what’s electrocuting you, and the heart to stop beating properly
  • Muscle, nerve and/or tissue damage
  • Thermal burns at the source of the current
  • Electrical burns caused by the current passing through the body, heating tissue as it goes. Electrical burns can be deep and often require major surgery. They can also be disabling

What happens if you’re caught in an Arc Flash?

There are big differences between Arc Flash and electrocution injuries.

An Arc Flash incident throws both a huge amount of thermal energy out, along with a strong blast that acts like an explosion.

Injuries can result from getting hit by the thermal energy or getting caught in the blast. The energy in Arc Flash incidents can generate temperatures exceeding 35,000 Fahrenheit – that’s hotter than the sun – and can affect people standing many metres away from the source. Arc Flash injuries can include:

  • Burns to the body, but also to the throat, mouth or lungs from inhaling metal vaporised by the heat. Burns to the body can be made worse by not wearing appropriate PPE as synthetic clothing can melt on to skin, even without outer workwear setting on fire
  • Shrapnel injuries from flying debris
  • Broken bones, concussion or muscle injuries from being thrown back by the blast or falling, if you’re working at height
  • Hearing loss or ruptured ear drums from the sound of the blast
  • Flash burns to eyes, caused by the UV light emitted by the flash of the Arc Flash incident

Read more about the types of injuries commonly caused by Arc Flash incidents in our blog here.

Preventing Arc Flash and electrocution injuries

Good risk assessments, safe working practices and general health and safety awareness are good first steps in preventing both Arc Flash and electrocution injuries. But as either kind of injury could be life-limiting or life-ending, specialist personal protective equipment (PPE) is also needed, especially in the case of Arc Flash incidents.

ProGARM’s workwear is designed to protect you from Arc Flash injuries in a number of ways:

  • Each garment is rated according to the scale of Arc Flash incident it can protect you from, indicating the level of protection the fabric and other component parts will provide. Your Arc Flash study and risk assessment will recommend the appropriate cal-rating for the task you’re doing
  • The protection provided by our fabrics is inherent to them, not added afterwards, so it can’t wash out or deteriorate over time
  • Our exclusively-developed ThermSAFE fastenings will not melt in an Arc Flash incident, meaning, if necessary, you can take off clothing to have injuries treated
  • Synthetic base layers, socks or underwear could melt on to the skin even without your outer clothes setting on fire, so our range of base layers and under-garments are critical to your protection

We hope this explanation of the differences between Arc Flash and electrocution injuries has been useful – for more advice on our range of Arc Flash PPE, give one of our friendly experts a call on +44 (0) 1482 679600.