The electrical industry is by its nature one that requires extensive knowledge of circuitry, electrical flow, and the dangers that can happen when equipment is not properly handled. Arc flash is a major concern for safety in the industry, as there are a number of variables that can contribute to the occurrence. However, many electrical engineers do question whether the danger is fully inherent, or whether it is avoidable with proper safety measures.
What Arc Flash Is, And Why It Happens
Arc flash occurs when an electrical current is diverted from its intended path through conductive outlets which will route it:
- Through the air
- From one conductive surface to another
- Through the ground, by way of human or inorganic conductors
Although the actual discharge can be fatal, arc flash is not entirely confined to the area of cross conduction. Combustion and explosion can also be a result, and this means that even workers who are within range can experience injury from heat, concussive force, and electrical shock. For this reason, the concerns over the dangers of arc flash are also amplified. It is important for electrical technicians to recognize and identify arc flash factors. These can include:
- Accidental contact, either through direct touching of a circuit or through the dropping of tools
- Moisture and condensation in the air and on equipment
- Corrosion to conductive parts or outright failure of materials
- Incorrect installation processes
This also makes it apparent that attentive work habits and safety precautions can greatly lessen both the occurrence of arc flash, as well as the damages that may be incurred if it does happen.
It should also be noted by electrical technicians that taking these proper safety measures will reduce the dangers that arc flash can present. Within confined workplaces, the use of a boundary system can provide protection in the event of an arc flash, since understanding the scope of blast can also offer means to contain it and avoid injury. Beyond workplace measures, electrical technicians can also make sure that they are following protocols to prevent arc flash. Some of these measures include:
- De-activating the circuit that is being worked on
- The proper use of insulation
- Utilizing ground fault circuit interrupters
- Secondary grounding measures
Continued education and the use of best practices can turn arc flash into a more of a worry than an imminent danger. However, electrical technicians also need to make sure that they are informed, not only about how to avoid arc flash, but also about how to be prepared with safety measures.