5 Maintenance Workers Hospitalized after Arc Flash Explosion

Queensland, Australia – Three maintenance workers fixing a power board sustained third-degree burns after an electrical explosion at the JBS processing plant in Ipswich, Queensland (Australia). Two other employees were hospitalized for smoke inhalation related to the accident.

The injuries were likely the result of an arc flash. The maintenance workers suffered severe burns on their upper bodies, faces, and hands.

An arc flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or shortmaintenance workers circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in injury or death to workers and destruction of electrical equipment.

Temperatures may exceed 35,000° F (the surface of the sun is 9000° F). These high temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. Such a blast can vaporize all solid copper conductors. When vaporized, these conductors expand up to 67,000 times original volume. As a result, an arc flash  and arc blast produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.

When an arc flash happens, it does so without warning and is lightning quick. The result of this violent event is usually destruction of the equipment involved, fire, and severe injury or evne death to any nearby people. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash. These measures include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.

The JBS facility is the largest beef plant in the southern hemisphere, with a daily production of 3,350 head per day. JBS in Ipswich employs about 2,000 making it the largest employer in that region.

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