- A review from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigations
of electrical injury incidents indicate that work inappropriately performed
on energized equipment is associated with a growing share of electrical
injuries, such as arc flash and arc blast, for workers who failed to recognize
- Many workers who experience a high-voltage injury, low-voltage injury,
or arc related injury, typically have insufficient training for working
on or around energized electrical equipment.
- Thorough pre-job planning with trained personnel is essential for identifying
all electrical sources, including identifying potential hazards that are
may not be noticeably present.
- Time pressures, strict production schedules, failure to use appropriate
personal protective equipment, and supervisor demands also contribute
to compromising workers’ safety from electrical injuries.
- At Wagner Reese, we believe it remains the employer’s responsibility
to provide a safe work environment for all staff so that devastating workplace
accidents related to electrical hazards can be avoided.
On-the-Job Electrical Hazards Can Cause Life-Long Injuries
Electrical hazards can take on a variety of forms and will most commonly
pose serious injury risk to electricians or mechanics who are performing
basic electrical installation or repair work. There are four classes of
different types of electrical injuries:
- True electrical injuries: The person becomes part of the electrical circuit
and has an entrance and exit site
- Flash injuries: Superficial burns caused by arcs that burn the skin; no
electrical energy travels through the skin
- Flame injuries: Caused by ignition of the persons clothing by arc; electricity
may or may not travel through the person’s body
- Lightning injuries: A unique type of injury that occurs at extremely high
voltages for the shortest duration; the majority of electrical flow occurs
over the body
Most current numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have shown approximately 24,100 non-fatal work related electrical injuries
between 2004 and 2013. While it doesn’t happen often, electrical
injuries do have the potential to be deadly. During that same time frame
BLS identified 1,962 fatal electrical injuries. Not only can electrical
injuries trigger traumas throughout the body and induce a range of complications
like cardiopulmonary arrest, renal failure, and sepsis, exposure to electricity
may also produce long-term neurological and psychosocial effects and significantly
influence the quality of life.
Electrical Shocks, Arc Flash, and Arc Blast
The most common electrical injury events associated in the workplace are
electric shocks, arc flash, and arc blast. Low-voltage shock injuries
result from direct contact of the worker with electric current, while
high-voltage shocks typically create an arc, which carries electric current
from the source to the worker without any direct physical contact.
The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) helps
define arc flash as, “when current passes through air between two
or more conducting surfaces or from conductors to ground.” Arc flash
has a variety of possible causes, including gaps in insulation, corrosion,
condensation, and dust or other impurities on a conducting surface. Arc
flash has the potential to produce temperatures as high as 35,000 degrees,
radiant energy up to four times the temperature of the sun, and may cause:
- severe burns
- hearing loss
- eye injuries and retinal damage
- permanent skin damage from blasts of molten metal and debris
- lung damage
- death from internal traumas
Arc blast can be created by an explosive energy released during an arc
flash explosion. BLS reports arc blast sending more than 2,000 electrical
workers to medical centers each year.
Fluke is a leader in the manufacturing, distribution and service of electronic
test tools and software, and offers this definition on understanding an
arc blast. Arc blast occurs when the accompanying pressure of an arc flash
produces waves that can damage hearing or brain function and send loose
equipment, tools, machinery, and debris flying to cause further injuries.
Despite companies saying they follow best practices, arc flash and arc
blast are real dangers in electrical environments. And most of these workers
injured will not have been properly warned of the magnitude of the hazard
or may not have been warned at all. Employers should be implementing an
overall electrical safety program as part of their occupational health
and safety management system and include risk assessment procedures to
address employee exposure to electrical hazards. By following best practices,
using the proper equipment, and staying as far away from energized components
as possible workers can reduce their risk of those events.
Best Practices to Reduce Electrical Injuries for Workers
Fluke has also created seven safety measures workers can take to reduce
the risk of arc flash which we thought served as great reminders for both
employees and their workers to avoid
- Get trained on safe work practices. Qualified and unqualified employees
who may potentially be exposed to electrical hazards must undergo training
to identify and avoid electrical hazards and follow safe work practices
such as, lockout/tagout procedures, maintaining hazard boundaries, and
abiding by PPE requirements.
- De-energize equipment before accessing. Inspect your test tools and verify
them with a known voltage source. De-energize and lockout/tagout the equipment.
Repeat the meter verification test.
- Conduct regular inspections. The key to identifying an abnormal reading
is to gather baseline readings for especially important components and
equipment. Critical components to inspect include electrical connections,
insulation, and circuit breakers.
- Wear arc-rated personal protective equipment (PPE). Wearing the proper
PPE in conjunction with the other safety measures is critical to minimizing
injury in the event of an arc flash incident. In order for the PPE to
perform effectively, its arc thermal performance rating must meet—or
exceed—the thermal energy transfer during the arc flash incident.
- Select tools rated for the environment. Test tools, test probes, flexible
clamps, and other accessories are considered part of PPE and must meet
established safety requirements. Make sure your meter and accessories
have the appropriate CAT and voltage rating for the electrical environment
in which you will use them.
- Use remote display or wireless test tools. Extend your safety zone with
non-contact or wireless test tools. Non-contact test tools allow you to
take readings on an energized part without making contact. Wireless test
tools enable you to attach the probes or clamp to the measurement target
and remove yourself from the arc blast zone to read the results.
- Install infrared windows for switchgear inspection. Installing properly
certified infrared (IR) windows allows technicians to inspect electrical
equipment without removing the panel cover. That makes it easier for companies
when inspecting switchgear and motors.
Call Us If You Have Been Injured on the Job
If your employer failed to protect you from workplace hazards or your electrical
injury could have been prevented by a training program or better safeguards,
contact the work injury and
compensation lawyers at Wagner Reese to find out
more information about how we can help. We won’t collect any fees unless your case
is settled or won.