What Is an Arc Flash?

March 23, 2020

An arc flash is a type of electric discharge through the air from one voltage phase to the ground or to another voltage phase. This unwanted discharge creates a sudden rapid rise in air temperature and pressure between the conductors, which can result in an explosion referred to as an “arc blast.” The heat combined with these blasts can cause fires and flying shrapnel that can be extremely dangerous to bystanders, and cause significant property damage. In many cases, there is little to know warning of these explosions, and they can completely destroy electrical equipment.

Therefore, it’s important to understand how arc flashes occur and what you can do to improve your odds of preventing arc flashes in Carlsbad, NM at your industrial site. Here’s a quick overview of everything you should know about arc flashes.

What causes arc flashes?

Arc flashes happen when there are multiple electrical conductors all located very close to each other, all of which have some significant fault currents passing through them. There are a variety of factors that can then result in ionization of the air, creating a low resistance path that allows electrical current to pass through the air gap located between those conductors.

There is a common assumption that low-voltage equipment will be safe from arc flashes, but the arc flash danger levels can actually be higher at low voltages because there are higher fault currents. Most of the accidents that happen with low-voltage systems are a result of human error, such as a tool slipping and falling while a technician is working on a piece of electrical equipment.

But beyond human error, there are plenty of other causes of arc flashes in Carlsbad, NM. Some examples include improper tools or techniques, using electrical materials or equipment that are damaged or in otherwise poor condition, damage or gaps in insulation, corrosion or debris on electrical conductors, exposed live parts in electrical equipment, exposure of electrical equipment to water or other types of liquids, obstructions located in disconnect panels and simple carelessness.

What can you do?

To avoid arc flashing, here are some of the steps you can take:

  • Improve your training and awareness: All employees should be trained in the factors that can cause arc flashing, and should receive the proper safety and technical training for any electrical work they’re expected to take on.
  • Avoid working on energized equipment: Whenever possible, remove electrical charges from equipment before it gets worked on, and double-check to make sure it’s de-energized before work begins. If at all possible, use remote technology to operate circuit breakers from outside the boundary lines of potential arc flashes rather than putting personnel in harm’s way.
  • Ensure proper safety equipment is used: All employees should be given the appropriate level of personal protective equipment based on their flash hazard category, and should be trained in the use of that protective equipment.
  • Use low-risk technology: Look into technologies that can reduce the risk of exposure to arc flashing and employ them wherever possible.

For more information about preventing an arc flash in Carlsbad, NM, contact JB Electric LLC today.

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