Arc flashes kill over 400 and permanently injure over 2,000 of workers in the U.S. every year. Over 30,000 arc flash incidents are recorded annually. The results of these fiery explosions can be devastating to the health of people even standing nearby. The business can face steep medical and insurance bills, exposure to fines and lawsuits, as well as delays and downtime.
Yet, many workers in industrial settings are disturbingly unfamiliar with the causes of arc flashes and the serious hazards they pose. These deadly events need to be prepared for in order to be prevented when possible and to minimize the impact. To better prepare your workers, it’s important to understand what an arc flash is and how it occurs in industrial settings.
The term arc flash is used to describe the energy release that occurs when unwanted electric discharge moves through an air gap between two live conductors. The conductors separate and produce an arc. This leads to a rapid rise in pressure and temperature in the air, causing an explosion referred to as an arc blast. Typically, arc flashes in a residential setting produce little more than a brief flash of light that disappears harmlessly.
However, in an industrial or commercial setting, electrical faults usually release far more energy because voltages are significantly higher. As a result, an arc flash in an industrial setting produces powerful explosions marked by blinding light, massive pressure waves, searing heat, deafening noise, and toxic fumes.
An arc flash can occur anywhere that the electrical current has the opportunity to flow outside its intended path. Common areas where arc flashes occur include switchboards, electrical panels, damaged wires, fused disconnects, motor control centers, metal-clad switch gears, and transformers.
The arc causes an ionization of the air, producing temperatures as high as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This kind of temperature can result in ignition of nearby materials. The explosion can cause injuries such as collapsed lungs, puncture wounds, third-degree burns, eardrum ruptures, vision loss, and even death.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) address specific electrical and arc flash safety training requirements. These agencies help ensure workers’ protection through safe work practices, training, applicable PPE requirements, and risk identification. The NFPA 70E standard is the national electrical safety consensus. It is updated every 3 years and the current edition was released on October 2018.
In a nutshell, NFPA 70E requirements include:
This training must be documented, including date of training, proficiency of the employee, and content of the training. Also, NFPA 70E makes the distinction on the level and content of training required for qualified and unqualified persons. A qualified person is one who works on or near energized and exposed electrical conductors or circuit parts. Training for qualified workers include:
Unqualified persons don’t work on exposed electrical equipment and include painters, operators, or cleaners. They should receive safety training on the nature of electricity, types of hazards, and potential injury that may occur.
Arc flashes are undeniably dangerous hazards in the workplace, but they can be prevented. Formal training on arc flash management and prevention will enable your employees to identify risks and how an arc could discharge at certain points. This helps them conduct assessments and avert any loss.
Formal training also helps avoid steep OSHA penalties for failure to provide documented electrical safety training to industrial workers. Training also motivates and engages your workforce to create a safety culture. When you invest in your workers, they will work harder and be careful in avoiding hazards. Also, they will be trained to uniform, current standards and regulations, which allows them in an engaging and cooperative manner.
Arc flash training is delivered by instructors with superior technical skills and in-depth subject matter knowledge. Enrolling to the Arc Flash Electrical Safety Training program at NTT Training will help your employees develop the awareness, skills, and core competencies to interpret and comply with NFPA 70E. Connect with us today for more information about this exciting opportunity.
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