Arc flash hazards: how to provide a safe work environment

Safety is the top priority in any work environment, and there is growing concern and increased discussion around the topic of arc flash hazards.


Safety is the top priority in any work environment, and there is growing concern and increased discussion around the topic of arc flash hazards.

In an arc flash event, temperatures can reach as high as 35k degrees. An arc flash event is a violent blast of energy, which can result in temperatures reaching as high as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though almost all buildings contain equipment that is vulnerable to arc flash hazards, many building owners don't understand these dangers or take the necessary precautions to prevent them.

What building owners need to know about arc flash hazards

An arc flash event can happen without any warning. When workers open live electrical panels with voltage exceeding 50V, they are exposed to arc flash hazards. An electrical explosion produces a fire that can cause serious burns at a distance of 10 or more feet away, causing serious injury or death. If they don't establish preventative measures, building owners could be liable for accidents.

How to protect workers from arc flash hazards

The best protection against arc flash hazards is for employees to work on electrical panels when the equipment is de-energized. If it's not possible to de-energize equipment, then workers must complete proper electrical safety training and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the level of hazard they may encounter for each piece of equipment.

An arc flash study is another valuable tool for building owners. This study analyzes a building's electrical system, determining how much electrical energy is available at each piece of electrical equipment. The more available energy, the greater the arc flash potential, and the greater the risk to workers' safety. After the arc flash study is completed, every piece of equipment needs to bear a label with information on arc flash distances and incident energy potential, informing workers what PPE they need.

RTM Engineering Consultants provides arc flash studies to educate building owners about arc flash hazards and protective measures.

Learn more about arc flash hazards and RTM's expertise in arc flash studies. Download the full guide.

This article originally appeared on RTM Associates' media center. RTM Associates is a CFE Media content partner.

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