Arc flash injuries are incredibly rare but account for a disproportionate number of work-lost days. Injuries tend to be severe and the fines and victim payments can be quite steep, as one company in San Diego experienced recently when they were ordered to pay $7.1 million to a work for 2013 incident.
How can you limit the risk to your workers? Let’s take a look at the four steps you need to take to establish your own arc flash program.
1. Designate an Arc Flash Program Administrator
According to CSA Standard Z462 for Arc Flash and Electrical Safety, your workplace should have a designated electrical safety coordinator that oversees your program. This individual is responsible for putting proper lock out procedures in place to isolate electrical energy, administrative controls to reduce possible contact with electrically energized components and provide accurate information regarding the electrical hazards and how to appropriately handle them.
2. Conduct a Thorough Arc Flash Hazard Analysis
An important part of your electrical safety program is performing an accurate study to identify exactly what your electrical hazards are in terms of electrical shock and arc flash potential. If there is a potential for an arc flash, it is important that you recognize how much incident energy (measured in calories) would be released if an arc flash would occur. This information also allows you to set your arc flash protection boundaries which will tell you how far you need to be away from the source of an arc flash to avoid injuries if one should occur.
This analysis can be performed in-house by your own electrical safety committee. We recommend the help of software programs that can calculate the values for you or outsource the electrical study to an electrical specialist that can provide a complete hazard analysis.
3. Identify Your Arc Flash PPE Requirements
Based on your incident energy calculations, you must provide protective equipment that matches the maximum rated cal/cm2 that an arc flash can release. There are a few universal PPE requirements you need to meet regardless if the risk of arc flash is present. These include:
- Safety glasses
- Hearing protection (ear plugs are best)
- Heavy leather gloves at low calories or electrical gloves rated for the voltage with leather protectors as needed
- Safety boots with electrical shock protection
- Hard hat with Class G rating
- Arc flash rated balaclava
- Natural fiber undergarments (e.g. 100% cotton)
In addition to this, appropriate arc-rated clothing and face protection is required. The face protection needed depends on the incident energy. If it is below 12 cal/cm2, then a face shield is adequate protection but anything greater than 12 cal/cm2 requires an arc flash hood.
4. Identify Equipment Hazards with Labels
Every piece of electrical equipment in the workplace requires warning labels that identify arc flash and electrical shock hazards. These labels will relay the information to workers about what was identified in the hazard assessment and the correct PPE to be worn if working on the equipment without de-energizing the system.
Voltage, incident energy, arc flash boundaries, approach limits and required PPE are all to be displayed on this label.
In these four steps, you can build an essential arc flash safety program for your workplace to help keep your workers safe. Looking for help? Call us today to review your electrical safety program and to learn how to reduce risks of electrical injuries.