It happens in a flash. Literally. And the resulting statistics haunt professional electrical contractors.
This year alone, there will be almost 30,000 non-fatal accidents as a result of electrical shock, with approximately 3,000 workers from a variety of fields taken to burn units with injuries. Even more disturbing, is the fact that hundreds of electrical workers are killed each year because of accidental shocks and burns.
Perhaps most disquieting, is that 65 percent of the people injured from contact with electrical systems are aware that a system is energized and yet choose to work on it anyway.
According to John Prendergast Program Coordinator at IN-TECH (IBEWNECA Technical Institute) Arc Flash training is mandatory for all third year apprentices and the class is also taught during Journeymen night school. The training is rigorous and covers topics such as basic electrical safety and qualified electrical worker requirements. Potential electrical hazards are examined, as are the methods to identify and prevent such hazards.
“The National Safety Council calculates there are 1,000 fatalities a year due to electrical shock,” he says. “The majority of fatalities occur on systems with 600 volts or less.
Ensuring safe conditions on any job site is critical. In the electrical construction industry, where voltage is a common potential hazard, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Electrical construction professionals turn to the ARC Safety and Protection Training program to better protect their employees by providing them with skills to help minimize accidents.
The safety program takes its name from an “arc flash”, a flashover of electric current that veers away from its intended path and travels from one conductor to another.
The program is designed to enable electrical construction companies to fulfill the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations detailed in OSHA 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart S Electrical and NFPA 70E “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace”.
For Tom King, Safety Manager for Continental Electrical Construction Company in Oak Brook Illinois, the ARC safety-training program helps to ensure that only properly trained and deemed qualified as Per NFPA 70E are permitted to work on energized equipment.
“We have to make sure that electrical workers are qualified,” says King. “This training program helps us as an industry because we are at the forefront of following OSHA regulations. I don’t know that our competition really does that.”
The most common safety precaution is the Lockout/Tagout. While the majority of electrical workers are familiar with Lockout/Tagout safety precautions, there are jobsites, such as hospitals, or some ventilation systems where it’s not always possible to shut off power. “A hospital might not let you shut power down,” cautions King. “They have lives to look after.”
Jobsite safety is something the electrical industry takes very seriously. A qualified electrician must understand the potential hazards they may face on the job. Mr. King the safety director at Continental stated they been training workers for the past fifteen years within their organization.
Arc Flash training is mandatory for all third year apprentices and the class is also taught during Journeymen night school. The training is rigorous and covers topics such as basic electrical safety and qualified electrical worker requirements. Potential electrical hazards are examined, as are the methods to identify and prevent such hazards.
The training features discussions about working safely on energized equipment. The training wraps up with simulated work assignments. The IBEW–NECA Technical Institute emphasizes that electrical workers must be quali ed and trained to work in the electrical industry.
The Arc Flash course is based on the 2015 edition of N.F.P.A. 70E and O.S.H.A. 29 CFR 1910 standards. Safety topics include: OSHA requirements, proper decisions regarding potential electrical shock hazards, as well as arc flash and arc blast hazards. N.F.P.A. 70E topics include: design and work practice considerations, and achieving an electrically safe work condition as well as working on or near live parts, approach boundaries to live parts, and the selection of protective clothing and other protective equipment.
NFPA 70E states that ARC Flash clothing must worn and voltage rated tools used when working on energize equipment. An electrical worker, in full ARC protective clothing, almost brings science fiction to life, with a suit that resembles something more extra-terrestrial than human.
“Sometimes you have to suit up,” says King. “There are high-risk situations and we have safety procedures that include job briefings.”
King has been working in the industry since 1980 and has watched how the role of safety training has evolved over the years.
“When I started it was common to work on live circuits,” he recalls. “Maybe, you put on safety glasses.” While safety precautions are more widely regulated today, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
I would love to see every electrical worker, even those people in factories, just respect electricity more,” says King. “You can’t see it and you can’t smell it. But once it’s got you, you’re in trouble.”