Anyone who works with electricity, or electrical equipment, knows that it can be a very dangerous force if not handled correctly. Even low-voltage equipment can be problematic if faulty or misused, and there are many health and safety regulations in place that are designed to protect against the dangers of electricity.
We all use electrical equipment in the home, in the office, in shops and elsewhere, and we do so in trust that it has been tested and checked and passed as operating correctly. The problems that can arise from electrical equipment may be as simple as a faulty earth or blown fuse, or may amount to more dangerous and potentially damaging problems such as arc flash.
You may not know about arc flash, but the chances are you have experienced it. Arc flash occurs when an electrical current makes a low-resistance connection between two points. Consider what happens when an old-style light bulb burns out: you get a loud bang, and sometimes a bright flash, then it stops working. This is arc flash on a minor scale.
The problem with arc flash is that, when uncontrolled, it can make the link between a love point and a person, for example, or any other viable item, and the result may at times be catastrophic. So, how do we protect workers from arc flash?
Training and Protection
The best way to prevent against any type of accident in the workplace is to ensure that everyone has the requisite training. This applies as much with arc flash as with any other problem. Making sure that the operators of such machines know the risks involved is part of the employers’ duty of care, and should be part of any training routine.
One instance in which arc flash is a known problem is when electrical circuits are switched on. A switch essentially connects two parts of the circuit and, as such, can induce arc flash on a minor scale. You might see this if, in the dark, you turn a light switch on – sometimes there is a brief flash.
Where this problem is exaggerated is when a circuit breaker has been tripped. This indicates a problem within the circuit. Switching the breaker back on in such an instance can be dangerous, as any arc flash generated may be exaggerated and cause problems within the circuit itself.
The routine here is to find and isolate the problem that caused the breaker to trip before you switch back on. Not doing so is a dangerous thing to do, so make sure this is instilled in every operator.
Protective clothing in the workplace should always be worn where known hazards are present. This includes in areas where arc flash may occur. For example, welders – using an arc welder – are effectively operating a controlled arc flash, and need the protective headgear not only to protect against the controlled flare, but also in case of a problem.
Such protective clothing should also be worn in the workplace where the danger of arc flash is possible, and there are different levels of risk associated with more protective gear that can be adhered to in order to keep within health and safety regulations.
Regular checks as to the safety of equipment are also a sensible precaution against arc flash, as are strict adherence to the operating procedures and following the start-up routine to the letter – turn to Arc Flash for assistance.
In simple terms, it is good practice to make sure all staff who may be affected understand all there is to know about arc flash and how to keep its occurrence to a minimum.