How do I prevent an arc flash from happening?

Whenever working with high voltage systems, it is important to do everything possible to avoid an arc flash. Given the fact that arc flashes are among the most deadly types of incident that can occur, all facilities should have a set plan of action on how to prevent them from happening. The following should all be included in any workplace safety program.

Arc Flash Hazard Analysis

An arc flash hazard analysis should be performed regularly to determine whether there is a significant risk for an arc flash, and if so, what can be done to fix the issues. This type of analysis is done by an experienced electrical engineer and will be able to pinpoint areas of elevated risk so that precautions can be taken.

De-Energize Systems

The best way to prevent an arc flash is to remove all electricity from a system before it is approached. This starts with removing the power source, but continues on with making sure all electricity has been dissipated from capacitors, batteries, and other power sources. Of course, this is not practical in all situations, but if it is at all possible, this is the procedure that should be followed.

Keep Equipment Well Maintained

One of the biggest causes of an arc flash is when equipment is neglected. Worn wires, failed safety equipment, and other problems can all lead to a deadly arc flash. All major machinery and electrical systems will have a maintenance schedule that should always be followed to ensure it runs as safely as possible.

Keep Work Area Clean

A clean work area is a safe work area, and that is especially true when it comes to electrical systems. If there is a buildup of dust on the ground, in the air, or anywhere in the vicinity of an electrical system, the risk of an arc flash will go up significantly. Dust, sawdust, and other similar things provide an easy path for electricity to escape a system, which can be devastating.

Keep People Away

If someone bumps into a wire or other item, it can trigger an arc flash. Any area where there are electrical components should be kept free from all people except those who are actively working on the system. Using floor marking tape, barricades, or other items is a great way to ensure nobody accidentally walks into these areas triggering an arc flash.

Personal Protection Equipment

Personal protection equipment is primarily to help provide people with protection should an arc flash occur. While this is very important, it can also help to prevent an arc flash from occurring in the first place. This type of equipment doesn’t conduct electricity so it won’t provide a path for the electrical current to travel like an exposed hand would. This can help to minimize the risk of an arc flash occurring, while also keeping people safe should one take place.

 

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Additional Resources

Arc Flash Labeling Guide
 
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