Where do arc flashes occur?

An arc flash is a very dangerous event that can cause explosions, fires, and electrocution. These potentially deadly events need to be prepared for so that they can be prevented when possible, and the damage and injuries they cause can be minimized. In order to best prepare for an arc flash of any kind, you must first know where they occur.

Arc flashes can occur in any type of electrical device. While most people think of arc flashes in high-voltage equipment, they can occur anywhere that there is enough energy to sustain the arc. To find where specifically in your systems an arc flash could occur, you’ll need to analyze each area to determine the risk.

Common Arc Flash Locations

The following are among the most common areas where arc flashes occur. When making an arc flash safety program for your facility, you’ll want to make sure to look closely at these areas to ensure they are protected:

  • Electrical Panels
  • Switchboards
  • Motor Control Centers
  • Transformers
  • Damaged Wires
  • Metal Clad Switch Gears
  • Fused Disconnects

Causes of an Arc Flash

Understanding what causes an arc flash will also help you to determine where it is most likely to appear. An arc flash occurs when the electrical current flows outside its intended path, through an air gap, to another conductor. With this in mind, you can see that an arc flash can occur anywhere that the electrical current has a chance to escape. This is why having properly installed and maintained insulation on all wiring and other parts of a system is so important.

On areas where insulation isn’t necessary or possible, the risk of an arc flash will be elevated if there is something that offers a path of low resistance for the electricity to take. For example, when there is a lot of dust in the air, it will provide an easy path for the electricity to travel outside the normal system, forming an arc flash. So, dirty areas like this are a common area for arc flashes to occur.

What to do in Areas of Elevated Arc Flash Risk

Taking the time to identify where arc flashes occur is a great first step. Once you know where the high-risk areas of your facility are, however, you then need to take action to address the problem. This starts by keeping your electrical systems well-maintained and in good working order. The areas should also be kept clean at all times. Finally, putting up signs to keep people away from higher risk areas, and having them wear personal protection equipment, will help to further keep everyone safe.

 

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Additional Resources

Arc Flash Labeling Guide
 
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