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.