How hot is the surface of the sun and what has that got to do with work?

The surface of the sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Would you believe that the temperature of an arc flash can be 3 times as hot? That means an arc flash can produce one of the hottest temperatures on the planet, even hotter than molten lava spewing out of a volcano.

When temperatures are that high it is easy to see the potential danger. If a spark at this temperature comes into contact with a flammable surface it will instantly catch fire. Not only that, if your skin is near the flash hazard it could result in severe burns.

The key to avoiding the danger is understanding what causes it in the first place and taking the necessary action to reduce the risk it will occur, and second, fully protecting yourself in case it does occur. That is what you will learn about the flash hazard in this article.

What Is an Arc Flash?

The simplest explanation is, to begin with, an electrical arc. This is a gap that exists between 2 electrical conductors. The gap is occupied by gas, most often this is air.

The gas particles become ionized, that is they become electrically charged. In this state, the gas behaves like a conductor and allows electricity to pass between the 2 conducting surfaces. 

This set up of two conducting surfaces with an electrical current being applied to one electrode (or surface) and forcing it to jump the gap causing the electrical spark has been used in a controlled way by industries. The resulting spark is very hot and is used in metal cutting techniques and also welding applications.

All of these applications are deliberate and controlled. However, the flash hazard can occur when conditions favor its production but were not actually planned or even controlled. The result is a powerful burst of electrical energy.

This is extremely hot and bright and can lead to a lot of damage very quickly. The flash hazard may also be accompanied by a blast.

The Flash Hazard – Timing

It is important to understand that the flash hazard can occur within milliseconds. Not only that, the flash hazard will remain a hazard as long as the conditions that triggered it remains.

In most cases, some form of an electrical circuit breaker will cut the power source and eliminate the flash hazard. A harmless example of this is when a lightbulb blows and short circuits the power in your room or house. Basically, an electrical circuit breaker will have cut the power, or a fuse will have blown in response to the huge surge in electrical power.

It is vital that electrical machinery is installed with the same kind of safety mechanisms and that those safety measures are regularly checked and maintained. Even though the flash hazard may only take a moment to occur the resulting damage can be significant.

Force of Nature

As with any force of nature, the flash hazard can cause a lot of destruction. The temperature associated with an arc flash is so high that it can quickly melt metal. It can cause a fire within moments and the blast associated with it can destroy almost anything within its path.

That often means destroying expensive machinery and even causing significant structural damage to a room or building.

Still, the most concerning danger is that to human life. Burns can occur almost instantly. Second and third burns can result from being nearby. If you are the closest ground to the electrical outburst then you may well be electrocuted.

Electrocution could be fatal. If you are not electrocuted you could be severely affected by the noise of the arc blast. It is so loud it can cause damage to your hearing.

The arc flash is extremely bright and could damage your eyes. If you are caught in the path of the arc blast then it could throw you off your feet and even break bones. Remember, an arc flash or blast is a powerful force of nature that will damage anything around it.

Protect Yourself

There are many ways you can protect yourself when it comes to electrical safety and the event of an arc flash or blast. The first and most basic thing is to make sure all equipment is properly labeled as it should be according to national regulations.

Before even going near equipment that is at risk you need to know what equipment that is and second what personal protective equipment you should be wearing.

For example, should you be wearing a fire-resistant shirt? Check out this article that explains what that is, and why you need one in some circumstances.

If an arc flash occurs then most likely it will be your hands that are in closest proximity to it. You would be wise to wear specialized gloves that offer enhanced protection.

Know the Risks – Do Something About It

In this article, you have read about the dangers and risks of the flash hazard of arc flashes and blasts. In short, the risk to your safety is very high. If one occurs you will not be able to stop it.

The only thing you will be able to do is to make sure you were protected in the first place. That means making sure you have the best and most appropriate protective clothing on.

If you have questions about protective clothing please get in touch with us here.