The dangers of arc flash cannot be understated. From permanent deafness and severe burns to death, those exposed to the risk of arc flash must be protected from a number of hazards.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the risks of arc flash and what employers need to do in order to protect their employees from this potentially fatal workplace danger.
Arc flash can occur when contact is made between two energised conductors or an energised conductor and an earthed surface. This will result in a short circuit that will melt the conductors and ionise the air, creating a plasma fireball with core temperatures that can exceed 20,000 degrees.
This fireball is known not only to affect the person working on the electrical equipment, but also those in the immediate vicinity.
One of the most widely known hazards of arc flash is severe burns. External burns are common, but arc flash can also cause internal burns from the inhalation of hot gases and vaporised metals.
The ultraviolet flash caused by this hazard can also cause permanent eye damage, and in some cases, even blindness.
The noise caused by arc flash can reach up to 140 decibels and can, therefore, cause significant and permanent damage to hearing. In the most severe cases, some of the individuals that survive arc flash can suffer from permanent deafness.
Currently, there is no given standard for arc flash calculations in Europe, but the accepted industry practice is to comply with the IEEE1584 standard. Failure to carry our appropriate arc flash calculations and risk assessments can have severe repercussions for employers, so it is essential that all safeguards are carried out to help protect employees from the risk of arc flash.
Employers need to provide their staff with high quality and well-maintained PPE to help protect them from the hazards of arc flash. Protective workwear for arc flash includes flame retardant boiler suits, flame retardant gloves, ear defenders and eye protection.
Employers should equip their staff with the appropriate PPE should an arc flash hazard be identified – the team at Wearwell can offer you practical, expert advice on the correct PPE to safeguard your employees against the potentially fatal and life-altering hazards of arc flash.