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ekstra   ara
 Post subject: My Arc Flash Story
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 12:44 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2008 11:15 am
Posts: 3
I worked in the petrochemical industry for many years in the early 1990's. My first exposure to arc flash came in the form of an accident in a refinery I worked in.

An electrician that I knew and worked with for several years was burned by an arc flash that occurred when he was racking an air breaker onto the bus of a 480V switchgear. The design of the switchgear necessitated that this was an open-door procedure. The electrician was wearing the standard refinery PPE of Nomex jumpsuit, hardhat, safety glasses, and work boots. I am unsure if he was wearing gloves or not while racking the breaker.

The racking mechanism of the breaker became misaligned while he was racking the breaker and it caused a phase to phase fault on the back of the breaker. The arc flash and blast from the fault exited around the breaker and out the open door. The electrician received third degree burns on his neck and face that required grafts and significant time in a burn unit. He also had vision and hearing problems from the flash and blast. Thankfully, only one side of his face was affected since he was standing sideways to rack the breaker in and thankfully the Nomex jumpsuit limited the extent of the burns.

After this accident, the refinery went through an electrical safety 'revolution'. We implemented very stringent electrical safety work practices, particularily regarding flash protection. We analyzed every piece of electrical equipment on the refinery system and categorized them according to arc hazard levels for specific tasks performed on the equipment. I only wish that these practices had been implemented long before this electrician was injured. The electrican that was injured continued to work at the refinery and was, for obvious reasons, the most vocal advocate of the new safe work practices.

It's been over 15 years since that incident, and I can still remember that electrician's face and the scars that he received from the burns. I have never viewed energized work (or electricity in general) in the same way again.


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