Electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries in the workplace each year. Think about that for a minute. Think of the lives affected and the cost of such injuries and loss of human life.
A powerful energy surge such as an arc flash can produce blast pressure high enough (upwards of 2,000 lbs. per square foot) to knock a large worker off his feet and propel potentially harmful objects through air. Arc temperatures can reach 35,000° F.
New requirements to protect workers from electric arc and flame hazards went into effect on January 1, 2015. These requirements include:
Employers must conduct workplace assessment in order to identify employees who are exposed to electric arc or flame hazard through a reasonable, broad estimate of heat energy exposure.
Employees who are exposed to these hazards must wear an employer-provided, flame-resistant outer layer clothing. Clothing must be constructed of materials that do not melt onto skin or ignite and continue to burn during exposure.
These new requirements were put in place to protect employees from electric arc and flame hazards. Under Occupational Safe & Health Administration (OSHA’s) rules, employers must estimate the arc flash incident energy to which employees could be exposed. Basically, if there is a significant likelihood that an arc will occur, then protection against the full incident energy of the arc flash is required. Where the incident energy calculation exceeds 2.0 cal/cm2 the employer must require that exposed employees wear clothing with a rating equal to or greater than the expected exposure. This generally includes rubber insulating gloves and leather protectors, heavy-duty work shoes or boots, and a hard hat. Employers must have written statements in their electrical safety program, prescribing worker attire from the skin out.
Full documentation concerning these new requirements can be found on OSHA’s website, or in the Federal Register.
As I shared in a recent blog on tragedies in the workplace, there was an incident with an employee who took the brunt of an arc flash explosion. Although the worker was wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), his shirt was unbuttoned to an undershirt. After the arc flash, his exposed t-shirt continued to burn while the employee lay unconscious, resulting in chest, neck and facial burns. It was a tragedy that did not have to happen.
PPE cannot prevent all injuries, but is intended to diminish the impact of arc flash, should one occur. Arc-rated personal fall protection equipment following the ASTM F887 standard is designed to self-extinguish and maintain integrity in the event of an arc flash fall occurrence.
It is so important for your workers to wear the proper PPE when they are working in a situation which could have the potential for electric arc and flame hazards. However, physically protecting your workers is only part of the overall protection. Mentally protecting your workers is the other obligation. I’m talking about proper training.
Arbill offers Arc Flash training. The 8-hour class trains employees in safety-related work practices and procedural requirements, as necessary to provide protection from the electrical hazard associated with their respective job or task assignment. Employees will be trained to identify and understand the relationship between electrical hazards and possible injury. Training provides specifics on what is required, including specifying the requirements for qualified person training and unqualified person training and requirements for training documentation.
For more information on Arc Flash training, workplace assessments or about PPE designed to protect workers from electric arc or flame hazards, visit www.arbill.com. Or speak with one of our safety specialists at 1-800-523-5367.
Have a safe day!