Protecting Eyesight from Arc Flashes

December 5th, 2011
Protecting Eyesight from Arc Flashes

Today’s modern world relies heavily on good illumination, both at home and work. Perhaps one of the greatest inventions of the modern age is the light bulb, along with discovery of electricity.

Yet, for most people, using these inventions is just accepted, without a thought given to those working in the industry that provides these modern products. But to maintain what this gives us, many workers are injured during the process. Some are even blinded by such things as arc flashes.

In fact there are many more injuries than people realise. In the USA for instance, it has been reported that in 2007 no fewer than 2,500 nonfatal occupational electric shocks and electric burns occurred. It also took workers an average of 27 days to recuperate.

Eyes are especially vulnerable since bright flashes can damage the retina.

But what can be done to at least reduce the number of accidents occurring?

Recent research found that wearing appropriate clothing is paramount to ensuring a worker is protected. Called personal protective equipment (PPE) there is a variety of specialised equipment available, but it is often the employees’ responsibility to wear the correct type.

As such, in the US, there are moves to ensure that employers take responsibility as well as the employees. The US doesn’t have the same sort of legislation in place that Britain has. There is no US federal equivalent to the Health & Safety Executive and instead individual states are responsible for developing health and safety law.

What is an arc flash?

It is defined as “an electrical breakdown where electric current jumps through an air gap between conductors.” It is in effect a blinding flash, and if anyone is not wearing protective goggles they are likely to damage their eyes. It can even cause blindness.

The flash also accompanies a transmission of heat energy of many thousands of degrees Celsius, which can cause serious burning

But what sort of eye goggles should be worn?

Ordinary goggles are useless. It is important to wear protective eye gear or face shields that do not have exposed metal parts, as they could create an arc. They should also contain infrared dye to absorb the harmful energy created after the flash.

Arc flash dyes are normally green in colour and the darker the lens, the greater protection.


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