Electrical workers face many dangers on the job, but few (if any) are more devastating than an arc flash. This electrical release of energy can be hotter than the surface of the sun, producing an explosion with the force of eight sticks of dynamite. It is estimated that 10 arc flash incidents involving more than one death occur every day in the U.S.
But these troubling facts aren’t always enough to convince businesses and workers to take the right precautions. Many myths still surround arc flash, which can prevent them from being taken seriously. That’s why it’s critical that companies do everything they can to ensure this danger is not overlooked.
Follow this five-point plan to give your workers the tools, knowledge and support they need to avoid a potential catastrophe.
1. Set the Right Safety Standards
Employers own the most responsibility when it comes to arc flash safety. Business leaders must be well-versed on potential risks in order to set the right precedents for their company. Implementing a strong lockout/tagout program is also imperative. This is a proven way to safeguard both employees and equipment and reduce the chance of an accident. Avoiding lost-time incidents and machine downtime will also help you stay productive and profitable.
After establishing a program, be sure to reiterate how essential it is to worker safety. Employers may set these standards, but it’s up to employees to follow them. They must always be vigilant of jobsite conditions and possible hazards while adhering to their company’s procedures.
2. Give Employees the Right Resources
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is one of the first lines of defense against an arc flash. Without the proper attire, your workers are more likely to sustain serious burns or other injuries—or worse. Hearing protection, face shields and leather footwear are some essential items for electrical workers. Employers should reference OSHA’s NFPA 70E standard to learn more about appropriate PPE for arc flash and other electrical hazards.
3. Train, Train and Train
Training is one of the surest ways to keep your workers safe from an arc flash. Consider offering education to new employees who may face this danger on the job. Refresher courses are also an effective way to inform employees on new risks and regulations and ensure continued safety. You can also encourage your teams to have safety talks or forums where they can share knowledge and potentially life-saving advice.
4. Test Your Surroundings
It’s important to assess how susceptible your environment is to an arc flash. Conducting an arc flash analysis involves gathering and documenting information like system voltages, equipment class and arc duration. This will help facility owners determine proper working distance and PPE for different scenarios. The NFPA 70E standard offers guidelines on how to perform these assessments.
5. Properly Label Equipment
Workers may not always know where an arc flash can occur, so be sure to label equipment with proper warning signs and instructions. This will help personnel easily identify potential danger zones and know what to do should an incident occur.
When you’re standing or sitting at work for long periods of time, there’s nothing worse than sore legs and feet. Every year, two million sick days are lost to lower limb disorders. Ergonomic injuries come at a high cost. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, $1 of every $3 spent on workers’ compensation comes from insufficient ergonomic protection. It’s clear that taking steps to prevent these injuries is well worth it.
Electrical equipment is only as effective as it is protected. Whether you’re indoors, outdoors, exposed to water, or facing harsh weather conditions, electrical equipment needs to be protected by an enclosure. Choosing the right electrical enclosure requires some knowledge of electrical standards. Ratings from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) provide guidance on what level of protection your enclosure needs depending on the environmental factors it is subjected to.
Slips, trips and falls are some of the most preventable workplace accidents, yet the numbers don’t seem to prove it. Second only to motor vehicles, incidents related to slips, trips and falls account for 15 percent of accidental deaths. They can also cost an employer an average of tens of thousands of dollars per incident.
Did you know that four million workers go to work each day in damaging noise? In just one year, 23,000 cases were reported of occupational hearing loss that was great enough to cause hearing impairment. And these are only the cases that were reported! From these statistics, it’s clear that we’re not doing enough to prevent hearing loss at work. Employers give earplugs and earmuffs to employees, but getting employees to wear them when they need to is another story altogether.