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What is Arc flash?

Todays Date: December 13, 2018

Many people are unaware of the safety hazards associated with improper electrical use and most importantly a majority who do not usually deal with electricity are unaware of what Arc Flash actually is. The result of a violent arc flash incident can cause devastating destruction to both the equipment involved with the event and the people directly involved and also working nearby.
An Arc flash is typically known as a voltage breakdown of the resistance of air and therefore this results in an arc which can take place as a path to the ground where there maybe lower voltage and also inside the electrical system itself. There are around two to three reasons which determine the intensity of an Arc flash disaster and most commonly these are found to be the amount of current that is faulty in the electrical system and of course how far away from the incident the workers or equipment is placed. However arc flash incidents are highly unlikely within systems operating at less than 208 volts.
The fault current can be reduced by using current reducing or limiting devices e.g grounding resistors and the arcing time can be reduced by temporarily setting up stream protective devices. An Arc rating is an incident involving the maximum energy resistance demonstrated by a material and the distance to which this incident may take place within the space of an unprotected person is named the ‘flash protection boundary’
There is also intense heat produced after an Arc flash incident which can also consequently cause damage. The effects can normally be seen on near walls and equipment; however there is a huge risk to nearby workers and public when a typical surface such as that of a human body is near contact, when the heat that can rise from this incident is not far from vaporising temperature. For example an arc flash which involves around 1000 amperes or more is nowhere near safe. In fact it has been proved with the amount of energy released, the effects can lead to more than just fire and injury when molten metal and plasma are blasted outward from the incident with tremendous force.
An Arc rating is an incident involving the maximum energy resistance demonstrated by a material and there are many methods in calculating these rating for protective measures. For instance, there are many companies whom offer arc flash PPE. This process involves the testing of fabrics and materials for their arc rating.

The author is experienced in Arc Flash Protection, Arc Flash PPE and Arc Flash Clothing

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