Arc Flash and Electric Vehicles: What Businesses and Workers need to know about Personal Protection

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are one of the world’s hottest topics. With 2,531,206 battery electric vehicles and plugin-hybrid electric vehicles on U.S. roads today,1 infrastructure, incentives and sustainability are at the forefront of EV discussions.

Within the EV industry, though, the conversation often turns to the perils of working with high-voltage batteries. Workers who build and maintain EVs face numerous dangers on the job, but arc flash incidents are the most acute. Even deadly.

What is arc flash? It’s an energy discharge of light and heat that forms when a fault occurs in an electrical circuit. A tremendous amount of energy is released as current flows through ionized air. When an arc fault occurs, the massive electrical explosion can reach 35,000° Fahrenheit – 4 times hotter than the sun! The intense heat causes a sudden expansion of air, which can result in a blast with exceedingly strong air pressure.

This force can be significant and can blow workers away from the arc, causing falls and injuries that may be more severe than burns. In sum, there are 2 separate byproducts of the electrical explosion: arc flash (the light and heat) and arc blast (the pressure wave that follows). It’s vital for workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) in any environment where arc flash is possible.

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