An arc flash occurs when a flashover of electric current leaves the intended path and travels by air from one conductor to another, or to ground. The results are often violent and can result in serious injury or loss of life. 

In the U.S., there are two primary documents used to determine the need to warn about arc flash hazards: the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70 National Electrical Code (NEC) and the NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. 

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NEC first required arc flash safety labels in its 2002 edition and it referred to NFPA 70E for the actual label requirements. While the NFPA 70E standard requires that a label is provided to warn that an arc flash hazard exists, it does not specify exact label content. These two standards, in addition to OSHA’s requirement to warn about electrical hazards, create the need to label and warn against arc flash hazards. The NEC leads to what, in practice, is a two-tier approach for arc flash labeling. First, electrical panel manufacturers place a general warning which communicates the presence of an arc flash hazard and that appropriate PPE is required in accordance with the NFPA 70E standard. This is the minimum labeling required to meet the code. The second label is more detailed and represents best practices in safety labeling for arc flash hazards. 

In terms of design and content, in Article 130.7(E)(1), NFPA 70E states that these warnings “shall meet the requirements of ANSI Z535, Series of Standards for Safety Signs and Tags.” The ANSI Z535 standards define the best practice use of signal words, colors, symbols and formats for safety signs, labels and tags to be used in the U.S. 

Along with understanding an arc flash’s potential hazards and calculating risk, using proper labeling on electrical equipment is critical. Proper safety labels allow workers to be more informed about the risks at hand and important precautions to take to avoid arc flash incidents. Using the right graphical symbols on your safety labels and workplace safety signs is critical to effectively communicating safety messages.

Clarion’s arc flash safety labels comply with NFPA 70E and NEC arc flash labeling practices, and use the ISO 7010 symbol “To warn of an arc flash”, standardized in 2016.

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