Survey Says: Raise Arc-Flash Awareness

EP Editorial Staff | December 3, 2019

According to a recent global arc-flash survey conducted by Littelfuse Inc., Chicago, (littelfuse.com), there’s a real need to raise electrical-safety awareness in industry.

Despite the fact that most of the 255 people surveyed (all of whom play some role in a site’s electrical safety) felt arc-flash mitigation was a priority in their workplaces, only 66% of facilities had completed an arc-flash risk assessment.

As Littelfuse’s report on the survey explains, arc-flash risk assessments determine the incident energy that employees risk being exposed to when they’re near electrical equipment. Thus, facilities that operate without regular shock and arc-flash risk assessments are like drivers rolling down a highway with their eyes closed: They’re cruising along blind to the risk their employees face.

Among specific survey findings:

• One in three survey respondents said they had experienced an arc-flash incident.

• Nearly 25% of respondents said they had never received safety training in their workplace.

• Of the facilities that had completed an arc-flash assessment, 77% have equipment at high risk—rated more than 8 calories/cm2. The calorie rating determines the required minimum arc-flash protection clothing workers must wear to protect themselves. (To put this finding in perspective, Littelfuse notes that onset of second-degree burns may occur at 1.2 calories/cm2.)

• While 85% of respondents are familiar with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, only 40% are familiar with the 2018 edition of the NFPA 70E Hierarchy of Controls (below).

To read the complete survey report, click here. EP

Hierarchy of Controls

The Littelfuse arc-flash-safety-survey report points out that the hierarchy of controls starts with the most-effective method and moves to the least-effective safety measure. Not all hazards can be eliminated, but the idea is that the closer you get to the top, the safer workers will be. The hierarchy-of-controls methods include:

• Elimination—Physically remove the hazard.
Substitution—Replace the hazard.
Engineering controls—Isolate people from the hazard.
Awareness—Inform people of possible hazards.
Administrative controls—Change the way people work.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)— Protect the worker with PPE.

NFPA 70E follows the model of the hierarchy of controls. The standard establishes the de-energization of energy sources as the preferred approach to working on or around electrical hazards, and emphasizes that PPE should solely be relied upon as a last resort (or an extra layer of protection). PPE is not the first line of defense, it is the last.



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