Arc Flash Safety

Blog post by Marc Bourque, Electrical Engineer

What is arc flash, and why should you be concerned about it?

What is arc flash?

Arc flash (also called a flashover) is an uncontrolled release of energy. The name arc flash pretty much describes what is happening; there is a spark, or arc and a flash of light. Arc flash can be anything from a static discharge all the way to a major discharge like a bolt of lightning. In many cases an arc flash will also produce a loud noise similar to thunder during a lightning strike. Arc flash can happen anywhere there is an electrical source and a potential for this energy to arc to ground.

What is the concern with an arc flash?

Working with controls and automation, a key element for our components is electrical energy. So that means that pretty much everything that controls automation has a potential for an arc flash. Depending on the current from the electrical source the arc flash can be anything from a small release of energy where the only damage is to the components in the controls system, all the way up to a major release of energy causing major damage or fire to the controls system and in some cases death.

Who does an arc flash affect?

Arc flashes can affect anyone that is working around live electrical energy. Opening an electrical cabinet that has not been properly powered down can expose you to a potential for an arc flash.

What is being done to prevent arc flashes?

New standards are being developed not only for electrical components, but also how controls systems should be designed and how to safely work on controls systems where an arc flash is a potential. A major component of these regulations falls on the safety side and wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The type of PPE required depends on the arc flash potential present. For the latest in developments refer to the following industry standards.

  • OSHA 29 Code of Federal Regulations
  • NFPA 70-2002 National Electrical Code
  • NFPA 70E-2000 Standards for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces
  • IEEE Standard 1584-2002 Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations

So what is Patti Engineering doing to prevent arc flashes?

All Patti Engineers are trained in the area of arc flash safety, not only when they are hired but throughout their tenure at Patti Engineering.

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Nick Hitchcock's Bio

Texas Director of Operations

Hired in 2008, Nick Hitchcock has served in several engineering and management roles in the company’s Austin office. Starting out at the Michigan office, and moving to Texas in July 2010, he now serves as the Director of Texas Operations.