The dangers of arc flashes

by on April 26, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Just how dangerous are arc flashes? Consider that in a fraction of a second:

  • High temperatures will melt nearby objects almost instantly, creating molten shrapnel
  • The pressure blast can propel that shrapnel at speeds up to 700 miles per hour
  • Workers as far as 10 feet from the arc center can get hit, and
  • Arc flash burns and shrapnel wounds can kill, of course, but also maim, requiring skin grafts.

Here are some suggestions for working on energized lines:

1. Require a job-hazard analysis (JHA) before working near energized components so workers realize the dangers.

2. Require a permit for energized electrical work. No exceptions.

3. Require that workers notify a supervisor prior to any live electrical work. The permit may have taken care of that, but a supervisor may be out of the loop. Mandatory notification to an immediate supervisor beyond the permit will take care of that.

4. Clear the area. Identify a no-go zone around the potential arc flash. If possible, cordon off the room. That way, bystanders aren’t at risk.

5. Use the required PPE. Workers have been burned when wearing short-sleeve shirts.


  • safety glasses and hearing protection
  • V-rated gloves and tools
  • non-melting t-shirts and underwear (untreated natural fibers, such as cotton, work)
  • fire-resistant pants, long-sleeve shirt and/or coveralls, and leather work shoes, and
  • a flash-suit hood or switching hood with a fire-resistant face shield.

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