What Is the Difference Between Electric Arc and Arc Flash?

red background with burning question

“Is there a difference between electric arc and arc flash? I have been referring to them as the same thing, using both terms to describe the same thing. Is this wrong? Can you advise on your view?”

The terms “electric arc” and “arc flash” are interchangeable.

Arc flash describes the event from an experiential perspective.

The term has become associated with the dangerous event, but it is interchangeable with “electric arc”.

Electric arc is another technical term. Electric arc is not dangerous (think neon lights).

In England and Australia I have heard opining that electric arc is the “correct” term. There are always those who are purists, but their opinions tend to get “in the way” and cause some confusion.

See more explanation and examples of arc flash.

Do you have a question about electrical safety and standards? Ask us here or on our forum!

Hugh Hoagland

Hugh Hoagland

does research and testing of PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Hugh is a Sr. Consultant at ArcWear and Sr. Partner at e-Hazard. Read more about Hugh.

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