Arc Flash: Common Beliefs Debunked

Even though many people know and understand the hazards associated with arc flashes, there are still some people that quite frankly act “untouchable” when it comes to certain safety hazards in the workplace. We all know these people, they are the ones who need multiple reminders to wear safety glasses, rarely utilize hearing protection, and often bend and stretch the safety rules in favor of their own personal convenience. This type of behavior is not only dangerous, but completely unacceptable. When one person puts himself or herself at risk, it also puts everyone else at risk as well and this is especially true when it comes to the risk for arc flashes. Arc flashes account for an average of 10 deaths or injuries everyday across the U.S. In addition, more than 2000 people are treated for severe burn injuries each year in America resulting from arc flash related accidents. There are many different myths out there concerning arc flashes, and these myths impede the needed and required safety guidelines in place for protection. In In order to fully understand the risks associated with arc flashes, you must first know the truth.

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Let the Debunking Begin!

Myth 1 – It Won’t Happen to me: Since arc flashes are not quite as common as other hazard injuries it does not mean that they won’t happen. It is wise to hope for the best, but also to prepare adequately for the worst. Even though airplane accidents are relatively rare, you wouldn’t want to be the only one without a parachute if an in-flight plane evacuation was necessary. Arc flashes are extremely unpredictable and may just happen without any warning at all. The NFPA 70 (the standard for electrical safety in the workplace) provides the required safety guidelines for safely working with electricity.

Myth 2 –Flame Resistant Clothing is all the Protection I Need: Flame resistant clothing with provide little if any protection against the intense heat, energy, and light associated with an arc flashes. Arc flashes are capable of producing some of the hottest temperatures on earth with some reaching nearly 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. To put this into perspective, 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit is four times hotter than the sun’s surface! Simple heat resistant clothing would be incinerated instantly at these temperature levels.

Myth 3 – Arc Flashes Only Happen if you Don’t Know what you’re Doing: While it is true that 2 out of 3 arc flash accidents happen because of inappropriate actions caused by an employee, arc flashes are not always due to negligence. The truth is that arc flashes can be caused by any element that compromises the distance between the energized components; this could be a tool, dust, simple wear and tear of equipment, or even a rodent. Arc flashes can happen at any time to even the most conscientious and seasoned electrical worker.

While there are many other myths out there, these are some of the most common and dangerous myths related to arc flashes. The best defenses against arc flashes are knowledge, training, and the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

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