First Aid for Arc Flash Injuries

Whenever you hear the word “arc flash” in the news, you automatically think of a movie or TV show from the 90s.

But for some reason, people these days are often under the impression that arc flashes are something that only happens in the movies and on TV. In fact, arc flashes are real and can happen to anyone.

Arc flash incidents are usually caused by a failure in equipment or a human error and can be very dangerous.

If you work with or around electrical equipment, it is important to wear proper safety gear and follow all safety procedures. Knowing how to issue first aid for arc flash injuries ensures immediate intervention in case of burns or eye injuries.

Here’s everything you need to know

What is the Arc Flash?

The arc flash is a very quick, high-energy burst of electricity that occurs when a person takes an electrical discharge on their skin. Think of it as an extremely high voltage short-circuit that results in a dangerous condition. It can happen in a few seconds and has a burning sensation on the skin,

A flash (also known as a spark) is a high-energy electric discharge or spark that results from a high-voltage arc between two conductive materials. It occurs from any type of electrical equipment that generates an electric current. This includes overhead power lines, transformers, switchgear, lighting fixtures, generators, and electric motors.

Types of arc flash

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has identified four types of arc flash based on the potential for electrical currents to travel from an energized conductor through the body to a person. These are:

Class I: High voltage, low current (1 ampere or more) that does not cause temporary incapacitation.

Class II: Medium voltage, medium current (2–40 amperes) that causes temporary incapacitation but does not cause death or permanent injury.

Class III: Low voltage, high current (less than 2 amperes) that causes death or permanent injury.

Class IV: Extremely low voltage and extremely high current causing death or permanent injury.

Due to the serious nature of the injuries, learning first aid for arc flash is crucial in providing immediate care and preventing potential death.

What Are the Symptoms of Arc Flash?

Arc flash injuries are severe burns that can occur when an electrical current passes through the body.

This type of injury is most often seen in workers who are exposed to live electrical circuits. Arc flash injuries can be devastating, causing severe damage to the skin, muscles, and bones. In some cases, arc flash injuries can even be fatal.

If you work with or around electrical equipment, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of arc flash injuries. These symptoms can include:

  • severe burning pain,
  • skin that is red or blackened,
  • smoke coming from the wound

If someone suffers such symptoms, it is important to issue first aid for arc flash injuries immediately.

Remember, injury severity varies between the different types of arc flash. The injuries may be minor if you have a flash in an area of your body that is not exposed.

Electrical Mistakes that Trigger Arc Flashes and Related Injuries

An electrical explosion due to a sudden release of energy can happen when electrical equipment is damaged, wires are improperly installed, or there is a sudden power surge.

There are several electrical mistakes that can cause an arc flash. Some of the most common include:

  • Failing to install or maintain electrical equipment properly
  • Poorly labeled electrical equipment
  • Wiring that is not up to code
  • Using damaged or corroded electrical equipment
  • Failing to inspect electrical equipment properly

When working with electrical equipment, it is crucial to watch out for an arc flash. By taking proper precautions and being aware of the potential risks, you can help prevent an arc flash incident from occurring.

How Does an Arc Flash Happen?

An arc flash is an explosion or spark caused by an electrical arc that forms between two conducting materials. Electric current forms between two conductors during an arc flash, causing a spark that can generate a fire or explosion.

Such flashes occur when an electric arc causes an electric field inside a conductive material to break down its resistance at a relatively high temperature and pressure.

How far can an arc flash go?

This breakdown can create enough heat energy to ignite combustible specks of dust in nearby air pockets within 6 inches (15 cm) above the arc’s surface. The sparks can cause fires that burn far beyond their original location due to their extreme intensity.

For example, if a worker was only 3 feet (1 meter) away from an overhead welding operation, it would take only 15 milliseconds for the flash to reach them.

A few seconds after a discharge, the temperature of a flash is so high that it will melt the surface of the person or object that is exposed to one. In extreme cases, the skin can melt so fast that it can even burn or burn and burn.

This can be a very painful experience and can result in more permanent injuries.

Tips to Prevent Arc Flash

When a flash occurs, the air particles are propelled at high speed, which causes the flash.

Although the flash is a sudden, sudden, and strong blast of air, the force of the air is so high that it can cause injuries to the skin.

Image alt text: first aid for arc flash injuries. Electrical technicians at work wearing arc flash protective equipment to prevent arc flash injuries.

Author credit: By PEO ACWA – Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant Training Facility, CC BY 2.0,

An arc flash accident can happen to anyone and can occur in various environments.

To prevent a flash, you can use these tips:

  • Wear a hard hat
  • Wear gloves and a face shield when working in a confined space
  • Keep your hands away from the arc flash
  • Avoid enclosed spaces, and instead, work with the air outside
  • Use a face shield to protect your face and eyes
  • Be careful when handling the electricity.

Lastly, do not get too close to the flash, as this may cause severe injury.

What to Do if an Arc Flash Happens?

Here’s what to do if an arc flash happens near you:

1.  Stop working immediately!

If you continue to work with an electricity incident, you may be electrocuted or suffer other injuries that could result in death or long-term disability. You must call 911 immediately!

2.  Move away from the electrical source as quickly as possible

If you are near an electrical source, move as far away as possible and seek shelter (a safe room or basement).

3.  Do not touch anything that has been exposed to electricity until it has cooled down!

This includes any machinery or equipment that may have come into contact with an electric current during the incident.

4.  Call 911<

Dial 911 if the incident lasts more than 15 minutes or if there are any signs of life-threatening injury such as severe burns, confusion, or unconsciousness from hypoxia (lack of oxygen).

Caring for arc flash victims

  1. An electrical current can travel through a person’s body, even if they are wearing heavy clothing. The most common places to get shocked are the head, neck, and hands. If an electric current injures someone, call 911 immediately.
  2. Get the patient out of the area where they were injured as quickly as possible and move them away from any overhead wiring or power lines.
  3. Cover the injured person with a blanket or something similar to protect them from further injury and help them cool down if needed (i.e., remove shoes).
  4. Elevate any patient who is breathing heavy or shows signs of shock (shock is defined as loss of consciousness with no pulse or blood pressure). Without first aid equipment available at hand, elevate their head and neck as high as possible so that blood does not pool underneath them due to gravity force alone which can lead to
  5. Keep water bottles nearby to provide hydration for the patient if necessary (i.e., remove jewelry).
  6. If no bones are broken, but the skin is ripped open, apply direct pressure to stop bleeding and then cover wounds with a clean cloth or bandage until help arrives (i.e., remove rings).

Arc Flash Accident Awareness

A recent survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) revealed that of the 3,000 workplaces surveyed, nearly all of the organizations (97%) had some form of arc flash safety program, and more than half of these (60%) had a written safety program.

The survey also found that almost three-quarters (74%) of the employers had received training on arc flash safety in the past year, with nearly three-quarters (70%) of those receiving training in-person.

The National Fire Protection Association held a poll to identify the top five most frequently asked questions about arc flash safety programs.

The survey also found that nearly three-quarters of the organizations (74%) had received training on arc flash safety in the past year, with nearly half of those (47%) trained in person.

Personal Protective Equipment to Avoid Arc Flash Accidents

While the concept of a flashover is not new, the impact of an arc flash accident is. In general, an arc flash is a rapid and intense ionizing electric current that occurs in an enclosure or space where high voltage electricity is being generated or is being applied.

Image alt text: first aid for arc flash injuries. A welder wearing a arc flash helmet to prevent arc flash from entering the eyes.

Author credit: By NAVFAC – Condenser Water Supply is Welded by Monaco, CC BY 2.0,

The main concern during an arc flash is to protect yourself from the shock and possible injury you could incur. You can avoid this by wearing the following:

  • Safety glasses
  • A helmet
  • A face shield
  • A fire blanket
  • Eye protection
  • Clothing that is flame resistant
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Gloves

A person who is caught in the path of an arc flash may suffer from shock and possible injury.

Can Arc Flash Cause Death?

Arc flash explosions can cause serious injuries, including burns, blindness, and even death.

These explosions can release a tremendous amount of energy and can be deadly. In fact, arc flash accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the electrical industry.

So when can an arc flash accident lead to death? A few factors can contribute to this, such as the amount of energy released, the proximity of the person to the arc flash, and the type of clothing the person is wearing.

●     The amount of energy released,

Generally speaking, any arc flash that produces temperatures above 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit has the potential to be fatal. However, even flash accidents with lower temperatures can be deadly if the victim is not wearing proper protective gear.

●    The proximity of the person to the arc flash,

The nearness to an arc flash can also determine whether the victim walks away with minor injuries or gets hospitalized for severe burns.

●    Clothing

The type of clothing that the person is wearing. For example, a person who wears flammable clothing may be more likely to catch fire and experience serious burns.

If you work with or around high-voltage equipment, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of arc flash accidents. Wearing the proper safety gear can help protect you in the event of an accident, but being aware of the risks is the first step in preventing arc flash accidents.

The Importance of Arc Flash Safety Training

Arc flash training is one of the essential safety measures to take if you’re prone to high voltage arcs. It is the best way to prevent serious injury or death. You can also complement these course with CPR and first aid certification to prepare your crew for emergencies.

If you have not yet attended any arc flash training, you should first find a service provider that offers such training and inquire how much it costs.

If you are not sure that it is offered or if it is too expensive, you can also contact the person in charge of the hazard control department of your local authority.

Ask them to tell you how long the training will last and whether it will happen in person or online. If it is too expensive, ask them whether they will be able to give you a discount.

Once you have found out whether your local authority provides arc flash safety training or not, you can start preparing for your safety training. You can ask your employer or your local authority to provide you with some training material.

It would be better to get all the material from the same source. You can also visit a training center that offers arc flash training for free. If you are unsure which one to choose, ask your employer or local authority to suggest some training centers to visit.

What to expect in an arc flash training class?

Arc flash training is an excellent opportunity for people who do not know how to handle an arc flash and are unsure whether they should stay or go.

  • Arc flash training includes all the knowledge and skills you need to know to protect yourself from the danger and damage of an arc flash.
  • It also teaches crucial safety lessons, such as tips to ensure that the arc flash does notspread to any other parts of the building.
  • Arc flash training will help you learn how to use the equipment properly and how to use it safely.
  • Some courses also include emergency response tips and first aid for arc flash injuries.

These skills will help you work safely even in a high-risk environment prone to electrical environments.

OSHA on Arc Flash Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long been interested in arc flash hazards, but it wasn’t until 2006 that it issued a final rule on the matter.

In that rule, OSHA defined arc flash as a lightning-induced electrical hazard that can cause loss of life or serious injury to people or property.

In the past, OSHA has recognized that arc flash can occur in many situations other than direct contact with electricity — including ignitions and fires caused by static electricity — but its focus has been on preventing injuries from direct contact with electric currents.

The new Arc Flash Hazard Evaluation Rule applies to all employers who have employees working in an area where there is potential for exposure to high levels of electrical current.

This includes employees who work near power lines or other sources of electricity like arc welding equipment, welding machines and other processes involving high voltages.

It also applies to individuals who may be exposed to electrical hazards at their worksites – such as electricians who work near power lines or electricians working on high-voltage transmission lines.

OSHA’s Arc Flash Hazard Statement (AFSS)

OSHA requires employers to identify and control hazards that could lead to employee injury or death. The Arc Flash Hazard Statement (AFSS) is OSHA’s list of recognized potential hazards that may occur with exposure to electrical arcing. The AFSS addresses the most common causes of arc flash injuries (EFIs) from electrical equipment operations, such as:

  • Incidents involving overhead exposure lines such as high voltage transmission lines and transformers.
  • Amplified voltage sources such as utility substations and electric power generation facilities.
  • Circuit breaker trips and overloads.
  • Electrical equipment that is not functioning properly, for example, a motor or transformer that is out of balance or worn out.
  • High-voltage contact with grounded objects, such as tools or tools on a rail or a floor.

The standard requires employers to provide for the control of hazardous energy, including electrical, mechanical, and heat hazards. The standard also requires employers to provide information about electrical safety with training and education programs that are designed to prevent injuries or fatalities caused by electrical hazards.

Best Practices for Installing Workplace Signage to Prevent Arc Flash Injuries

Workplace signs and labels are an indispensable part of any workplace or business. They can prevent injuries from arc flash, electrical hazards, and other possible fatal hazards. Therefore, following the proper installation guidelines for these safety signs is very important.

Proper installation

To ensure safety, you must install signs in a safe and well-lit area. The right signs should be installed in the right place. The wrong signs might be installed in the wrong place, leading to an accident.

Incorrectly installed signs can lead to an electrical shock or an arc flash. The incorrect signs can be installed in poorly lit areas or at improper heights and positions. This might result in an accident.

Proper labeling

Labeling and signage is another crucial strategy when protecting workers from electrical harzards. Labeling is used to highlight hazardous conditions. It helps to highlight the hazardous conditions in the workplace.

The label should include the following information:

  • The type of hazard present
  • The distance from the ground to the highest point on any object in the work area
  • The maximum safe work distance from that object
  • The equipment used at this location and its voltage rating

Labels help to protect the workers from electrical shocks and other hazards. They can also help in identifying hazards in the workplace. However, labeling is not as simple as it sounds.

Can You Tell When an Arc Flash is about to Happen?

No, there is no way to tell when an arc flash is about to happen. This is because arc flash is a sudden and unexpected release of electrical energy that can occur when two conductors come into contact. This release of energy often causes a bright flash of light and can produce enough heat to cause serious injuries.

Still, you can look out for some signs that may indicate an arc flash is about to occur. These include bright light, a loud rattling noise, and a burning smell. If you see or smell any of these things, taking steps to protect yourself is important, as an arc flash can be extremely dangerous.

Last Words on First Aid for Arc Flash Injuries

Arc flash burns can be painful and take a long time to heal. The worst cases can lead to amputation. If you are exposed to this kind of injury in the workplace, know how to treat it properly.

Even better, try to prevent arc flash burns altogether. Look for ways to mitigate the risk of arc flash injuries at your workplace. And if that isn’t possible, ensure you get adequate training, so you’ll know what to do should an injury happen.