In the United States, roughly 2,000 individuals per year check in to burn centers as a result of arc flash injuries. 80% of these burn center visits are due to clothing fires, and the remaining 20% are to treat burns on bare skin. All—or at least, nearly all—of these injuries could have been avoided through the proper use of arc flash protection.
Work environments must promote employee safety, and facility managers should mitigate hazards as best as they can. If every electrical worker wears proper arc-rated PPE, the statistics above would shrink considerably. Electrical work requires highly trained and skilled professionals, and taking the steps to ensure that these individuals can be confident in their safety as they go about their jobs will make them even more effective.
What Is Arc Flash?
In order to understand arc flash, you must first understand arc faults. Arc faults are electrical discharges (explosions) characterized by two factors:
- Extreme force and energy, referred to as arc blasts
- High levels of temperature and brightness, referred to as arc flashes
Arc flash occurs when multiple electrical conductors with significant fault currents flowing through them are placed close together. This often results in instantaneous, violent, and costly explosions. Many arc faults cause millions of dollars worth of damage. Arc flashes, in particular, introduce several dangerous elements to workplaces, such as:
- Pressure waves
- High or sudden acoustic energy
- Extreme thermal energy
- Intense light
Many welders assume that using low-voltage equipment cuts down on the chances of arc flash. However, this is not the case. In fact, arc flash hazard levels may be higher at low voltages because of the high fault currents associated with operating in these conditions. The majority of incidents that occur within low-voltage systems can be traced back to human error.
Why Do You Need Arc Flash Protection?
Arc flash protection is critically important to preserving the safety of workers and bystanders. Arc flashes can induce a range of harmful effects on welders, including burns, blindness, electrocution, and ear damage. These flashes create extreme levels of heat, sometimes with temperatures exceeding thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. Molten metal and plasma may be ejected from the force of an explosion.
In many cases, arc flashes can completely destroy equipment and cause wider damage to facilities. Fires and short circuits are common problems associated with arc flashes, and employees and bystanders are at risk for violent injuries. Some individuals walk away from arc flashes with permanent damage to their vision and nerves. In other cases, flashes have even been known to create vaporizing conditions that impact buildings, objects, and people.
Arc Flash Protective Equipment
Having proper arc flash protection equipment in place is critical to preserving facility and employee safety. Safety gear should always meet governmental and third-party guidelines like OSHA and NFPA 70E.
The basic arc flash protection equipment that any facility should have on hand includes:
- Should be worn at all levels of electrical work
- Required at all PPE category levels
- Specific to ear inserts
- Muff protection is not adequate, because arc blasts can strip these elements
- Hard hats with ventilation penetration often aren’t rated for voltage and should be avoided
- Heavy-duty leather gloves up to Category 2
- AR gloves for Categories 3 and 4
- Voltage-rated gloves with leather protectors are ideal
- Leather or non-exposed steel-tipped boots
Working With Paulson
For more than 60 years, Paulson has manufactured top-of-the-line safety solutions for the electrical industry. Our products help protect workers and keep operations at countless facilities running smoothly. We’ve worked hard to develop high-quality, custom-crafted arc flash face shields and helmets in order to provide the best possible equipment for welders across America. We craft all our safety gear to meet OSHA and NFPA 70E standards.
contact us today using this quick reference form to learn more about our products and personal protective equipment.