Intro to Arc Flash

What is it?

An arc flash is a dangerous condition associated with the release of energy caused by an electric arc. This explosive condition includes a broad spectrum of electromagnetic energy, plasma, fragments and a spray of molten materials.

Light – the light emissions can be like looking into the sun on a bright sunny day, causing permanent damage to the retina.

Heat – temperature of the arc can reach 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit (up to 4X hotter than the sun). Because an arc flash can extend beyond a workers position, 360° of protection is needed. With the melting and vaporizing of metals and other materials, the presence of toxic fumes will instantly be present.

Arc Blast – superheated air and vaporized solids surrounding the arc, expand out from the fault at supersonic speeds. The arc blast also sends a sound wave loud enough to cause irreparable damage to a workers hearing.

When can it happen?

An arc flash can happen with or without the presence of a worker. A worker is injured every 30 minutes from electrically induced causes.

Where does it happen?

An arc flash can occur at any location where electricity is present and this includes residential, industrial and commercial facilities. The “big questions” are:

1.) How much danger is present?
2.) What does the worker need to know?
3.) What does a worker need to wear to be protected by recognized standards?

How can it happen?

An arc flash can happen with the presence of old or rusting equipment, the build-up of conductive dust, tools being placed in the wrong place, improper work procedures, or even a spider web that becomes humid and moist.

Why does it happen?

Said in another way, an arc flash is a very large short circuit that goes into the air. This short circuit, however, has the potential of bringing your business to a halt and injuring workers, maybe for life.


While Salisbury can’t prevent all arc flashes from happening; actually no one can with 100% certainty, we can help you answer those “big questions”

  1. How much danger is present?

    Answer: Arc flash hazard analysis

  2. What does the worker need to know?

    Answer: Training

  3. What does a worker need to wear to be protected by recognized standards?

    Answer: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Analyzing the hazards associated with an arcing fault should only be undertaken by professionals with necessary qualifications to perform.

Arc Flash Statistics

OSHA Fines

According to OSHA, between 2007 and 2011, more than 2,880 fines were assessed for not meeting OSHA regulation 1910.132(d) which averages out to 1.5 fines a day.


According to NFPA & IEEE from 1992 to 2002, over 2,000 workers a year or more than 5 workers a day were victims of an arc flash.



Downtime Costs Estimates
Industry Average Downtime Costs, per hour
Forest Products $7,000
Food Processing $30,000
Petroleum / Chemical $87,000
Metal Casting $100,000
Automotive $200,000

Lost productivity

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded more than 2,500 non-fatal electrical shocks and burns in 2007 and a worker who suffered electrical burns in 2009 required an average of 27 days to recuperate.

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