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Is Arc Flash a risk when working in a low voltage environment?

Published: 2 June 2017 - Sarah Mead

Tony Arnett, managing director at the country’s only Arc Flash specialist, ProGARM, explains the risks of Arc Flash

It’s readily accepted that when you work in a high voltage environment there are a host of risks to be considered, but there is a widespread belief that low voltage does not pose an Arc Flash risk – unfortunately that’s simply not true.

Industries, companies and workforces across the world have increased their awareness of Arc Flash risk and protection in recent years, which is a significant step forward. However, the dangers of Arc Flash when working in a low voltage environment are not as readily understood, which can lead to teams being caught in a false sense of security and putting themselves at risk.

So, what’s the real risk of an Arc Flash? Simply put, it’s high. An Arc Flash incident can occur in low voltage installations such as power supply equipment in commercial buildings, factories or data centres and can have devastating effects. With temperatures from an Arc Flash hotter than the sun, an Arc Flash incident can be fatal, cause severe burns, ignite consumables leading to fires and the sound can deafen workers. The risk of injury at low voltage is also greater because operatives generally have little training in Arc Flash protection and are therefore more exposed than an operative working with Arc Flash risks on a regular basis.

A common misconception in low voltage environments is that transformers and other system impedances can drastically minimise the risk of an Arc Flash incident, but short circuit fault currents can be produced by small distribution transformers and therefore pose a real risk to an operative. Be it an Arc Flash or a cable strike – the risks are high and must be considered as part of any health and safety auditing.

There are however smart ways to protect against an Arc Flash or a cable strike. For example, we recently reported on an operative who struck a 120 CNE 3 Phase low voltage cable with a pneumatic drill and triggered an Arc Flash incident. Thankfully, he was wearing our Arc Flash protection and was saved from life-changing or potentially fatal injuries. This incident illustrates the dangers of Arc Flash hazards in a low voltage environment and the importance of adequate protection wherever there is a potential risk.

Arc Flash risk assessments are an integral aspect of protecting you and your team from a potential incident, whether you are working within a low voltage or high voltage environment. Knowledge of the risks in any given situation allows appropriate steps to be taken to create safe working practices and protect operatives through education and the provision of adequate Arc Flash resistant clothing.

Don’t be lulled into a low voltage sense of security. Ensure you and your team are aware and properly protected against the risks of Arc Flash incidents in every kind of environment.

For more information on how you can protect your workforce and receive a free Arc PPE consultation, please visit http://www.progarm.com/.



 
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