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What is an Arc Flash and Why is it Dangerous?

October 17th, 2019

One of the biggest myths about power lines is that they’re only dangerous if you touch them.

While making direct contact with an overhead or underground line can cause significant damage to your equipment and more importantly, result in serious injury or even death, coming within 7 metres of an energized line still puts you at risk of an arc flash.

Arc flashes are electrical explosions that happen when electric current flows through an air gap between conductors. Arc flashes expel deadly amounts of energy and can reach temperatures as high as 19,400°C — that’s almost four times hotter than the sun. Even from a distance, that heat can set fire to clothing and burn human skin within milliseconds. Arc flashes also release explosive sound and pressure waves, sometimes with enough strength to knock workers off balance and rupture eardrums.

Whether you’re operating equipment, transporting scaffolding, using a ladder or even trimming a tree, coming within 7 metres of a power line puts you in harm’s way, regardless of your experience or skill level. Any crew members working nearby are also at risk of severe electrical burns, loss of limbs or death.

If you have to work within 7 metres of a power line, always contact your local utility before any work begins and make sure that everyone on your job site is trained in power line safety. It could save your life.

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Contact Map

Think power line contacts are few and far between? Think again.
See the overhead and underground contacts occurring near you.

The Joint Utility Safety Team (JUST) is a partnership between the following Alberta electric utilities with contributions from local municipalities, formed to address the frequency of power line contacts across the province.