Understanding Electrical Hazards: The Arc Flash and the Dire Consequences

Cristian Dumitrescu • May 14, 2019

What is an arc flash and how does it happen?

Arc flash is an electrical hazard with potentially devastating effects that can result in serious injury or even death of electrical workers.

Not to be confused with electrical shock, which occurs when electric current passes through your body, an arc flash event happens during short circuit conditions when electricity passes through the air and releases tremendous amounts of heat and light at speeds faster than the speed of sound! In such a situation, an electrical worker may be exposed to temperatures as much as four times hotter than the surface of the sun that can instantly vaporize metals like copper or steel, and to shock waves that can pulverize concrete walls.

It is now obvious why electrical reliability services are needed; it is not only to maintain your critical systems up and running, but also to ensure the safety and well-being of your employees.  

How common is an arc flash incident and where does it occur?

On average, there are 5-10 arc flash incidents per day in the U.S. resulting in over 30,000 injuries and 400 deaths a year, with ~ 80% of the fatalities due to burns, not shocks.

It is important to note that arc flash does not only occur in high voltage environments, but actually more commonly within 480V power systems!

What can you do to prevent an arc flash incident at your facility?

In addition to saving lives and minimizing downtime and financial losses, an effective arc flash hazard analysis program can provide valuable information regarding which measures are necessary to ensure workers’ safety, including required personal protective equipment (PPE) and labeling of equipment and hazard areas.  Such an arc flash program should be based on the requirements and guidelines established by the relevant regulatory agencies and standards: OSHA 1910.333 & OSHA 1919.335, NFPA 70E and IEEE 1584.

Worker Safely Racking a Breaker While Wearing Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires the arc flash analysis be updated when changes occur in the electrical system or at intervals not to exceed 5 years. Lack of compliance may possibly expose workers to unknown hazards and result in severe financial penalties.

Vertiv’s Electrical Reliability Services (ERS) is here for you, every step of the way

ERS offers a comprehensive portfolio of arc flash solutions including, but not limited to, complete system analysis, site review/compliance assessment, hazard labeling and PPE plans, and development of an electrical safety program and training.

To learn more about the importance of protecting your employees and investments from the dangers of arc flash, visit www.vertiv.com/arcflash or call 1-877-468-6384 to talk to an expert about your arc flash strategy.



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