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Energy and Utilities

The Importance of a Robust Arc Flash Electrical Safety Program

Large Fire At An Electrical Substation

Arc flash is a type of uncontrolled electrical discharge that occurs when an electric current strays from its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another.

They most often occur in electricity and power plants, or any place that uses electrical equipment such as substations and transmission lines.

Arc flashes are most often caused by two things: 1) a foreign object making its way into an electrical system (i.e., a poor little mouse, R.I.P.), and 2) malfunctioning, incorrectly installed equipment, or human error.

An arc flash can release heat hotter than the sun, emit dangerous gasses, project blinding, ultraviolet light, cause a plasma ball of fire…among other life-threatening things.

So, you don’t want an arc flash to happen!

However, many jobs and resources require electricity that inherently comes with the risk of an arc flash occurrence. Therefore, organizations must prioritize and adhere to diligent employee protective measures.

According to a report published in Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, on average, there are 30,000 accidents relating to arc flash every year; approximately 7,000 burn injuries, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 400 fatalities.

These numbers are certainly grim. So, what are some things that can be done to help prevent an arc flash incident?

Hazard analyses. Analyzing workplace hazards includes verifying equipment is accurately labeled, maintaining proper boundaries around the equipment, ensuring employees wear personal protective equipment, replacing and repairing equipment as needed to keep it in working condition, and performing routine checks on equipment.

Maintain arc flash boundary. When an arc flash hazard exists, the distance between source and the fault currents affects the potential incident energy exposure and ultimately the arc flash boundary.

Using high-resistance grounding systems so there is a proven path around the current that can help deflect faults. Only high-quality tools should be used.

Enforcing comprehensive training for workers. Workers should be required to complete extensive training and be taught proper boundaries. Emphasis should be placed on following workplace rules and instilling in employees that they can only perform tasks they have been trained for and assigned to.

Interested in learning more? Join us for our webinar, How Xcel Energy Built An Arc Flash Electrical Safety Program, on March 2, 2022, at 2 PM ET.

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Madeline McDermott

Madeline McDermott is an industry marketing coordinator at Perficient, based out of St. Louis.

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