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Avoiding Arc Flash Injuries: Control Where Lightning Strikes

by Tony Geng on May 26, 2015

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Arc flash injuries are no joke. This severe electrical reaction can cause burns, hearing damage and death. While it’s important to take proper precautions when working around equipment. Preventative measures are the best steps you can take to staying safe. This blog examines what arc flash is and how to prevent it from occurring.

lighting is an example of nature's arc flash


What is an Arc Flash?

An arc flash occurs when electrical current jumps from the desired electrical path. The current travels through the air from one conductor to another conductor. When this happens, anyone in the vicinity of the discharge can be injured or — in extreme cases — killed.

Lightning is an example of an arc flash in nature.


What Causes an Arc Flash?

Arc flashes occur around high voltage or current machinery due to a few different reasons:

  • Airborne dust particles can provide a path for electricity
  • Worn through or thinning insulation
  • Corroded contacts
  • Dropped, misplaced or improperly used tools
  • Accidental human contact due to inappropriate gloves or other PPE
  • Improper or incomplete installation of equipment

electric current jumping between two conductors


Ways to Prevent Arc Flash Injuries

There are times that working on energized equipment or — when the status of the equipment is unknown — is necessary. It’s imperative that special attention and protective measures are taken in these circumstances.


1. Conduct a Flash Hazard Analysis

A flash hazard analysis is a study of all the electrical circuits in the device that are capable of being energized. The study determines the amount of powers flowing through the system’s critical access points. It also determines how much energy would be released if an arc flash occurred. A flash hazard analysis will also allow safety professionals to determine the hazard risk category (HRC).


2. Follow Hazard Risk Category Level

A hazard risk category shows the minimum amount of protection a worker needs based on potential exposure to a hazard. The risk levels are from 1 to 4, where HRC level 1 is low risk and HRC level 4 is the highest and most dangerous risk level. The higher the risk of flash hazard — based on the analysis — the higher the hazard risk category; the higher the risk category, the higher the rating the glove requires. 


3. Selecting and Wearing the Correct PPE

Arc flash expert, Hugh Hoagland, suggested choosing arc flash rated gloves with a palm coating because:

“Palm coatings are one of the most beneficial additions to arc flash-resistant gloves. When the International Association for Test Materials developed an arc flash test (ASTM F2675), the decision was to rate a glove based on the least protective area like the back of the hand. A glove may be rated for 8 cal/cm² of arc flash protection, but the palm coating can give up to 50 cal/cm² of protection. So palm coatings are great news for arc flash protection since the palm and fingertips are where the most heat occurs in many arc flashes..”

Wearing gloves that will burn, catch fire or not prevent heat damage is one of the worst things that can be done. Beyond sustained injuries, ignoring the need for proper electrical PPE can result in fines of over $100,000.

(Why pay a hefty fine or risk injuring an employee? Get a FREE pair of the world’s thinnest arc flash-rated gloves by clicking the button below!)

arc flash rated gloves
arc flash rated gloves

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Reader Comments'

Arc flash is really a crucial thing to consider. Injuries that are induced by arc flash can be burns, blindness, hearing loss not mentioning some psychological problems afterwords… (taken from Therefore I completely agree with the article that employers must provide training for employees and ask external professional companies to help them.

Reply AnnaMaria - July 27, 2016

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