Every employer has a basic duty of care to ensure that the workplace is a safe and secure environment for the workplace to operate in. This is covered by a great many health and safety rules and regulations. Many of these tend to be very specific, and when it comes to the likes of electrical equipment and high-voltage circuitry, they need to be adhered to.
Electricity is a vital part of our lives, yet there is always a danger associated with it. Misuse can be fatal, and faults can cause a vast array of problems. One of the biggest and most potentially dangerous of electrical problems is that of arc flash. This is something that can occur when faults are found in a circuit, or at certain other instances, and that can occur at all levels of voltage. More dangerous in high-voltage circuits than standard ones, it is a problem that can cause serious injury, and even death.
So, what is arc flash, and why do we need to consider it in the workplace? Let’s look at it in a little more detail.
What is Arc Flash?
All electrical circuits need to have a physical connection; that is, they need to be a circuit in complete to operate. An electrical arc – or arc flash – occurs when there is not a physical connection, but electricity manages to ‘jump’ between two points, forming a connection effectively in the air.
You can see this happening occasionally in the instance an incandescent light bulb ‘blows’; in that moment, the electric current no longer has a bridge, but momentarily makes the leap between the two points. The result is that you see a bright flash and hear a bang; this is an arc flash on a minor scale.
On an industrial scale – where high-voltage circuits are involved that are far greater in power than our household one – the potential damage an arc flash can cause is simply colossal. The energy released – even though the actual act takes just a few moments – is massive, in terms of light and heat.
It can cause, in just a fraction of a second, heat so intense it can melt metal, and may shower anyone nearby with such debris, causing burns and other injuries. Indeed, exposure to an arc flash such as this can be fatal. This is why arc flash is a major problem in the workplace, and why it needs to be attended to as part of the health and safety routine.
You need to make sure you have reliable metering equipment – like that sold by Power Meters, to make sure you can check on all of your equipment and circuits.
The fact is that, in many cases, arc flash is most likely to occur when a circuit is first switched on, but it should be said it can do so at any time. This is because of the sudden surge of electricity through the system. The most common injuries caused by arc flash include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Third-degree burns, usually very severe
- Eyesight loss or damage due to elector magnetic radiation
- Hearing loss or damage after the explosion
- Inhalation of extreme heat and gases
From the above, you can see that there is a strong call for specialist anti-arc flash protective clothing, and there is plenty to be found, offered by dedicated suppliers who are experts in the field.
It is also essential that your workforce is trained in the understanding of what arc flash is about, how and why it happens, and the various methods of minimising its risk. We recommend you keep them firmly up to date on the latest developments, and invest in the best protective gear available.