Arc Flash Hazards and Why They Need to be Addressed
Arc flash hazards can result from many factors, including dropped tools, accidental contact with electrical systems, build up of conductive dust, corrosion, and improper work procedures. An arc is produced by flow of electrical current through ionized air after an initial flashover or short circuit, resulting in a flash that can cause significant heating and burn injuries to occur. The electrical and safety industries are acknowledging that arcing faults can:
- Release dangerous levels of radiant heat energy capable of causing severe burns and ignition of clothing, which can result in treatment requiring years of skin grafting, rehabilitation and even death.
- Spray droplets of molten metal, with the explosion distributing the molten metal and shrapnel produced by the arc over a large area.
- Produce blast pressure waves that have thrown workers across the room and knocked them off ladders.
- Cause hearing loss from the sound blast related to the arcing fault.
Developing and implementing an ongoing arc flash hazard program which meets the new regulations noted in NFPA 70E, IEEE-1584, and the current OSHA Standard 29 can be challenging. Rule-of-thumb methods could result in both unnecessary worker exposures to hazards from under protection and significant lost plant productivity due to overprotection.
The industry is recognizing the benefits of obtaining accurate arc flash hazard data. Recently, the PCIC Safety Committee recommended that arc flash calculations be completed in conjunction with short circuit calculations and protective device coordination to help ensure the most accurate arc flash hazard results. Our own comparisons between EasyPower ArcFlash and the other methods indicate that the use of EasyPower ArcFlash could save companies thousands of dollars annually, per worker, in lost productivity.