Who is at risk of an arc flash?

Arc flashes are widely understood to be one of the most dangerous events that can happen in the workplace. Safety managers and employees who work around electrical systems both know that an arc flash can cause life threatening injuries to those who are working in the area. The fact is, however, that an arc flash can put many more people at risk than just those working in the immediate vicinity of where it occurs. Learning more about who is at risk of an arc flash can help you to plan out your safety strategy and keep the entire facility safer.

Immediate Threats

The most severe threat is going to be to those working in an area where the actual arc flash can reach. The distance from the electrical system where the arc flash occurs that the arc can reach will depend on many factors. Performing an arc flash hazard analysis can help to identify where the maximum precautions, including personal protection equipment, need to be present. Many facilities will mark these areas around the systems using floor marking tape or other types of floor markings.

Secondary Threats

Beyond the potentially deadly threat of becoming electrocuted by an arc flash, there are a variety of dangers that can impact others in the area. This includes those working in areas surrounding the electrical system where the fault occurs. Some of the secondary threats include fires, flying debris caused by the arc flash or an explosion. These types of secondary threats can cause serious injury or even death very quickly after the arc flash occurs. In addition, they can lead to the tertiary threats that are present from an arc flash.

Tertiary Threats

After the initial hazards related to an arc flash are addressed, it is important to look at various tertiary threats. These hazards place everyone in the facility, and even those in the surrounding area, at risk. These can be caused by the fires that are created from an arc flash, and any other damage. For example, if the facility has hazardous chemicals, the fires or explosions could cause the chemicals to be spilled or to enter the air. Of course, a spreading fire also puts everyone in the area at serious risk.

Responding to an Arc Flash

It is easy to see how an arc flash can be dangerous to everyone working in or around a facility. This is why it is so important to do everything possible to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If one should occur, there has to be effective response strategies in place to minimize the damage of the arc flash, and keep people as safe as possible should one occur.

 

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Additional Resources

Arc Flash Labeling Guide
 
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