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What is an Arc Flash

Friday, October 23, 2015

What is Arc Flash?

An arc flash is an explosive burst of heat and light, caused by a sudden, uncontrolled electrical arc (or current passing through the air). Temperatures may reach as high as 35,000°F in just 1/1000 of a second, vaporizing metal, causing fatal burns, and generating a blast wave that can collapse workers’ lungs and rupture eardrums. Shrapnel, toxic gases, and intense UV rays can cause additional injuries. Arc flash accidents can kill in an instant, or cause a long, slow, and painful death. Even non-fatal injuries from an arc flash may require months or years of medical care and therapy.

What Happens in an Arc Flash?

An arc can begin whenever a conductive object gets too close to an exposed current source. Dropping tools, opening panels on deteriorated equipment, inserting or removing components from an energized system, and even a rodent infestation can provide an opportunity for an arc to begin.

If that arc has enough energy, it can continue to ionize the air around it. This ionization reduces the electrical resistance along the path of the arc, allowing the arc to draw even more current. As more and more energy flows through the arc, the process builds on itself, and in a moment the arc becomes an arc flash.

The primary source of injury in an arc flash is the burst of heat. Just like lightning, an arc flash releases an enormous amount of heat energy in a very short time. That heat also melts and vaporizes the materials around it, such as wiring and metal equipment panels, as well as drastically raising the temperature of the air nearby.

As this material heats up very quickly, it expands to create a pressure wave, just like thunder. That pressure wave can scatter the broken and melted fragments of equipment like a spray of bullets. Even after the immediate blast, the vaporized material can form a cloud of toxic vapor, mist, and dust. Arc flash is one of the more dramatic electrical accidents, and is often deadly where proper safety precautions have not been taken.

Steps for Arc Flash Safety

Preventing arc flash accidents or minimizing their impact requires a comprehensive safety program, involving both electrical workers and management. The following steps should be taken to ensure worker safety.

First, perform an electrical risk assessment. Use the guidelines in NFPA 70E and IEEE 1584 to identify and assess electrical shock and arc flash hazards throughout your facility.

Determine protective boundaries for electrical equipment. NFPA 70E recommends Limited and Restricted Approach Boundaries to protect workers from electric shock and a separate Arc Flash Boundary to protect them from burns in the event of an arc flash. Employees should keep outside these boundaries during ordinary work.

Identify equipment and components that present a significant risk of arc flash. The NFPA identifies the following types of frequently-affected equipment:

  • Switchboards
  • Panelboards
  • Industrial control panels
  • Meter socket enclosures
  • Motor control centers

Next, ensure all potential arc flash hazards are properly labeled. Warning labels that inform workers of potential hazards are a key part of arc flash prevention. The National Electric Code (NEC) Article 110.16 addresses arc flash protection, stating that affected equipment  ”shall be field marked to warn of potential arc flash hazards...." In addition, NFPA 70E requires that arc flash labels contain information specific to each piece of equipment, detailing the exact hazards that are present.

Pre-printed arc flash labels can be used, although pre-printed labels must be modified in the field to include the required information. A better option is to print custom arc flash labels on-site. Specialized software can track and organize the information for each label, such as available incident energy, approach distances, and required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Labels should be kept legible and up-to-date, since arc flash hazard levels can change any time your electrical system is modified.

Finally, make sure that workers are adequately trained. Any employees who will work on electrical equipment need to be aware of the dangers of arc flash, understand the warning labels and signs, and know how to select and use the appropriate PPE.

Electrical Fire Prevention

Monday, May 19, 2014

Electrical fires account for more than 

50,000 fires,

$1.3 billion in damage,

500 deaths 

and 1,400 injuries EACH YEAR!!

 Simple tips and tricks could save your life, your home and your possessions. 

Tips & Tricks #1 Don’t Overload the Circuits

The electrical circuits in your home are not designed to run at maximum capacity all the time. By minimizing how much electricity you force through each circuit, you can easily reduce the risk of having an electrical fire. Some homes may have less circuit’s available, especially older homes. Although it may be costly at the time, a safe and effective idea is to have an electrician install new circuit breakers on your electrical panel. 


Tips & Tricks #2 Replace Those Cords!

If you see wiring in your home that is frayed or damaged, do NOT just try to fix it with electrical tape and forget about it. You may think you’re making a great DIY fix but you are not reducing the risk of electrical fire from the damaged cord. Replacing damaged wiring is not as expensive as one might think, and after a trip to the hardware store, you’ll still be able to put your DIY skills to the test, in a safer way!

Tips & Tricks #3 Play It Safe

Another simple way to help prevent electrical fires in your home is by keeping items in safe places. Avoid leaving hot irons and curling irons plugged in if you aren’t in the room, especially if you have small children. If you are charging your everyday items, such as, cellphones, laptops, iPads, etc. leave them on hard surfaces like your desk or a table. AVOID leaving them in places like the couch or the bed. This can quickly cause them to overheat and the materials are easily flammable. 

Tips & Tricks #4: Hire an Electrician

Make sure to routinely have a licensed electrician go through your home and give a thorough examination of your electrical system. If you notice any issues with your circuit breakers, flickering lights, overheated or loose plugs, or experience any shock from an outlet, LET YOUR ELECTRICIAN KNOW IMMEDIATELY! This cannot be stressed enough. Don’t wait to see if it happens a second time. The next time, it might be too late. Take the chance to get it fixed while you have the chance!

Stay Grounded!

GFCI Receptacles Keep You SAFE

Thursday, March 27, 2014

About 200 people in the U.S. alone die of ground faults each year, accounting for two-thirds of all electrocutions occurring in homes. Keep reading to learn more about keeping you and your family safe!

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are used to protect people from electrical shock. If a person’s body starts to receive a shock, the GFCI senses this and cuts off the power before he/she can get injured. The GFCI will “sense” the difference in the amount of electricity flowing into the circuit to that flowing out, even in amounts of current as small as 4 or 5 milliamps. The GFCI reacts quickly (less than one-tenth of a second) to trip or shut off the circuit.

here for more information on what a ground fault is and how a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter can protect you!

GFCIs are generally installed where electrical circuits may unintentionally come into contact with water. GFCIs are required by the National Electric Code in all new kitchens, bathrooms, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, and most outdoor receptacles.

GFCI outlets should be tested on a monthly basis.
Simply, plug in a light fixture and turn it on. Then push the device's test button. If the light stays on, the GFCI needs to be replaced.


Is your GFCI receptacle needing replaced or you want a GFCI receptacle installed, ICE Co. is here to help you!

Power. Current. Grounded.

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