Presenting many safety hazards, arc flash is a serious concern in the industrial sector. This phenomenon — a burst of heat and light produced from an arc fault — can cause substantial harm to whatever or whomever it comes into contact with. Arc flash can occur in many scenarios and objects; it can happen inside incandescent light bulbs, which is relatively harmless, or between two power lines, which can be deadly.
What is Arc Flash?
Arc flash is an electrical discharge that results from a short circuit condition, wherein an electric current passes suddenly across an air gap as the result of a low impedance conductive path between a conductor at a given operating voltage and electrical ground or to another voltage level within the equipment. The flashover that is observed is the result of this sudden discharge of energy, which causes ionization of the air, and the generation of temperatures that can reach tens of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. The energy discharge may also cause metals to liquefy or vaporize, generating both a sound blast pulse and a pressure wave that can result in damage to equipment, personnel injury, or fatalities.
Preventing Arc Flash in Industrial Settings
Various causes exist for arc flash, including common ones such as:
- Dust or contaminant buildup
- Improper safety procedures
- Accidental contact
- Equipment failure
- Improper or inadequate training
Even under the best circumstances, the risk of an arc flash cannot be completely eliminated, but prioritizing workplace safety can greatly reduce the number of incidents that do occur and the damage they cause.
Naturally, the first line of defense is proper training and adherence to the standards set forth by various workplace and emergency-response organizations, including NFPA, ASTM, and ANSI. Incorporating these standards into training programs or as worker prerequisites ensures that the latest techniques and safety measures are in place and helps protect employees and equipment. Ongoing education and training should also be provided as new technologies develop and standards shift and evolve.
Utilizing proper safety equipment is also critical. Having a well-trained crew doesn’t guarantee an incident-free workspace. This is where the right safety equipment comes into play. As with training, safety gear is an ongoing investment, since equipment performance continues to improve with new innovations and advancements. Such investments are well worth the cost. Aside from the obvious ethical considerations involved in ensuring equipment is safe and high-performing, companies can save considerably on the costs associated with workers’ compensation, equipment repair, and accident-related downtime. Plus, the costs associated with liability issues decrease significantly when companies can prove they’ve done all they can to make their space as safe as possible.
Gray Arc Shields
One of the most crucial components of effective safety equipment is head and face protection. Many innovations and improvements have been made since the initial introduction — and widespread implementation — of arc flash shields. The latest is gray nanotechnology, which is now being incorporated into arc flash face shields for workers across the globe. Compared to the standard green shield, the new gray face shields allow for a wider spectrum of colors to pass through them. This change is particularly beneficial for electrical workers who need to be able to differentiate between different colored wires. By reducing the number of times a worker has to lift the shield to see colors better, the risk of injury is also significantly reduced.
Arc Shield Impact Threshold and Scratch Resistance
These improved arc flash shields also have higher impact threshold and scratch resistance, which improve the durability and life of the shield as it is subjected to wear and tear over time.
Another remarkable advantage of these new gray shields is the inclusion of an air ventilation system. Since fresh air can easily pass in and out of the mask, workers are more comfortable, minimizing the need to raise the shield. In instances where the user may want to raise or remove the shield, such as when communicating with other workers, the wearer can simply grip a latch assembly to lift a window, which can be quickly and easily lowered back into position when needed. This feature provides for better head coverage while communicating with colleagues, cutting down on the risk of injury.
These new masks adhere to all the standards of NFPA, ANSI, and ASTM and are available with ATPV ratings from 12 to 100 calories per square centimeter.
Improving Safety, Boosting the Bottom Line
Providing workers with the newest, most effective safety gear is paramount for companies working in hazardous industries such as industrial manufacturing and utilities. No business wants to suffer the death or injury of a trusted worker, and no worker wants to risk their lives at a workplace. Making use of the best available equipment not only helps prevent tragedy, but it also benefits your bottom line.