What is an Arc Flash and How to Prevent One

If you work in the electrical industry than you are probably no stranger to the term arc flash. An arc flash is a frightening event that is usually not a common occurrence¬†on well-maintained electrical switchboards and equipment. However, accidents do happen, and if the equipment is under repair or another unusual circumstance is present than the risk can be high. It’s crucial for personnel exposed to the risk of arc flashes to understand what it is, what can happen, and most importantly, how to prevent one.

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What is an Arc Flash?

An arc flash is a dangerous phenomenon that can occur during a short circuit or fault. Arcs are a result of an uncontrolled electrical current and happen in gaps between conductors. Both conductors don’t have to be live. If one conductor is live and the other is earthed there is still a potential for an arc to occur. In addition to the sparks from a gap between conductors, arc flashes can also be caused by things such as equipment failure, malfunctions and even heavy dust and buildup on electrical parts. 

What Can Happen With an Arc Flash?

If you can imagine a temperature reading that registers four times that of the sun’s surface, then you can imagine the havoc an arc can create. The term arc flash relates to the excessive thermal event that can result in life-threatening internal and external burns. When an arc flash occurs there is a huge amount of concentrated energy or voltage released in a small area. The flash can be bright enough to damage eyesight. The heat from the flash can cause fires, burns and even death. 

How to Prevent an Arc Flash

Prevention is the best way to avoid an arc flash. Arc flash data collection software is now available to aid those in the electrical industry entrusted with the important job of hazard analysis and short circuit studies. Personnel responsible to maintain and monitor electrical switchboards and equipment are key to avoiding the disasters that result from arc flashes.