Arc Flash & Electrical Safety News

Blog Author Steve Hudgik

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Arc Flash Burn Consequences Can Include Post-Traumatic Stress

A short article in ISHN points out that:

"Victims of arc flash blast injuries often have terrible scarring and chronic pain. They may suffer severe psychological symptoms, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical costs and loss of income can be substantially damaging, and workman’s comp will typically pay only a portion of the cost."

The article goes on to make the point that preventing these types of accidents is the best approach for avoiding the post-traumatic stress altogether.

Read the article here.

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Higher Utility Solar Voltages Heighten Arc Flash Safety Issue

An article in Solar Industry Magazine points out that utility solar generation facilities are growing and are operating at higher voltages.  The article states:

"As solar sites continue to rapidly expand, maintenance has become an increasingly important factor to maintain productive facilities. Prior to this solution, nearly every maintenance procedure required manually entering a live compartment, wearing a significant amount of PPE in order to help ensure the circuit was properly isolated.  Beyond the added time it took to perform tasks, this method also provided an increased opportunity for personnel to encounter an arc flash hazard."

The article goes on to point out that having designs that place components that need to be accessed for maintenance and taking measurements outside of areas where an arc flash danger exists help to mitigate the likelihood of an arc flash event.

Read the article here.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Electrical Workplace Safety Training Is the Best Insurance Money Can Buy

This article is in Plant Services magazine. It provides a overview giving the background on arc flash safety.  On the second page the article provides a number of good ideas for improving safety. The article points out that:

"The human damage and financial costs that result from arc flash accidents can be very significant. It is estimated that a serious accident from which the victim survives will on average cost more than $10 million, which is a combination of direct and indirect costs. Some very serious accidents have resulted in much higher costs. The victim often suffers permanent and disfiguring physical trauma that shortens the life span and prevents them from ever returning to work. This is a serious risk not only to the worker and the worker’s family, but to the employer and its insurers. For small employers, the company itself may not survive."

Read the article here.

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New Standard for Arc Rated Hand Protective Products Approved by ASTM Committee

The National Fire Protection Association has required arc rated gloves in its NFPA70E since 2009. A new ASTM standard will provide arc rating thermal protective values for gloves, which will allow more gloves to be used inside an arc flash zone when there is no shock hazard.

The new standard is: ASTM F2675/F2675M, Test Method for Determining Arc Ratings of Hand Protective Products Developed and Used for Electrical Arc Flash Protection. It was developed by the ASTM Subcommittee F18.65 on Wearing Apparel, part of ASTM International Committee F18 on Electrical Protective Equipment for Workers.

ASTM F2675/F2675M will be used to determine the arc rating of hand protective products in the form of gloves, glove material, glove material systems or other protective products designed to fit on the hand and specifically intended for electric arch flash protection.

“The electrical industry wanted to have the same type of rating on their gloves as they had for clothing and face shields since the hands are generally closer to the hazard than any other part of the body,” says Hugh Hoagland, senior consultant, ArcWear, and a member of F18.

With ASTM F2675/F2675M, companies can choose a cut resistant or a chemical resistant glove for one hazard. The same glove could be worn when operating an electrical box if the glove is also arc rated.

“The most common use of the new types of arc rated gloves will be for primary operators rather than electricians,” says Hoagland. “Electricians will benefit from research using this standard that could offer options other than leather for protector gloves required to be worn over the rubber insulating gloves.”

ASTM F2675/F2675M will be primarily used by those in heavy manufacturing, petrochemical and the electric utility industries to protect the hands of workers exposed to potential electrical arc hazards. Many of the products rated by the standard will have applications for flash fire, cut and chemical applications when rated with other standards.

Hoagland notes that F18 welcomes all interested parties to join in its standards developing activities. The committee would particularly like to see participation from glove companies that are seeking to break into the market with innovative products for protector gloves and multithreat arc rated gloves with new and unique properties.

An upcoming project for F18 will be developing a standard for non-leather protector gloves to protect rubber insulating gloves from cut, puncture and arc flash. “Leather has worked well for almost a century, but this is an area of real potential improvement in worker dexterity, grip, comfort and better ergonomics,” says Hoagland. “A standard will be one step in this ongoing development.”

To purchase ASTM standards, visit www.astm.org and search by the standard designation, or contact ASTM Customer Relations (phone: 877-909-ASTM; sales@astm.org).

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Electrical Accidents In The News This Past Week

Typically very little information is reported in the general press about arc flash and and other types of electrical accidents.  This means it can be difficult to determine what happened. Here are a few news reports about electrical accidents from the past week:

Cedar Falls Electrical Explosion Heard Four Miles Away

On August 19th Radio Iowa reported that an electrical explosion "heavily damaged a Cedar Falls Utilities facility. Cedar Falls Fire Rescue officials confirmed the explosion occurred at a back-up electrical generation facility around 10:00 A.M. The explosion was heard throughout Cedar Falls, up to four miles from the site."

Read about this incident here.

Canadian Man Found Suspended From Cherry Picker

The Telegram reports that: "A man working outside a Canadian Tire store in Carbonear is now being treated for unspecified injuries. The man received an electric shock late Sunday morning and was found to be suspended in the air on a cherry picker."

Read the story here.

Electrical Explosion Damages Submarine

The Bellingham Herald (Washington State) reports that an Indian Navy submarine was damaged by an electrical explosion while the submarine was submerged at her berth.  The Russian built diesel submarine had just returned from an overhaul in a Russian shipyard.

Read the story here.


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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Electrical Safety News

Don't Get Burned by Myths About Arc Flash Protection

An article in EHS today debunks the top four myths about arc flash protection.

The article notes that:

"An arc-flash accident is a relatively rare phenomenon, leading some electrical workers to believe that it won't happen to them – or that safety standards such as NFPA 70E don't apply to them... the devastating consequences of an arc flash alone should make all electrical workers take notice."

Read about the four myths about arc flash protection in EHS Today (click here).

Switchgear Explodes At Harris Nuclear Power Plant

Power Grid international reports on a switchgear explosion at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant in North Carolin. The article states:

"Plant operator Duke Energy Carolinas sent out an alert to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about an explosion in a non-safety related electrical bus. The bus affects safe shutdown equipment. It was de-energized due to the explosion, but there was no fire, so workers terminated the alert."

Read the article here.


Dad Questions Penalty For Workplace Electrocution

Michael Garrels, the father of a Queensland, Australia worker who was electrocuted, says that the $90,000 fine was not large enough. News 24 reported:

"Jason Garrels was working on a construction site at Clermont, south-west of Mackay, in February last year when he was electrocuted after the power was turned on without his knowledge. The director of Cold Spark Proprietary Limited, Nathan Day, pleaded guilty to failing to discharge an electrical safety obligation. The company was fined $90,000 and Day had his electrical licence suspended for two years."

Read the article here.


The Importance Of Lockout/Tagout

An article by Jack Rubinger discusses LOTO and the OSHA safety standards that apply to LOTO.  The article states:

"It is more important now than ever to generate awareness for LO/TO and educate a broad business audience about LO/TO procedures, best safety practices and the wide range of LO/TO products and services available. LO/TO regulations and appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) protect employees who work around equipment powered by electricity."

In addition to LOTO standards, this article covers excuses for not using LOTO, and challenges to overcome when ensuring LOTO is always used when needed.

Read this LOTO article here.

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OSHA Cites Montana Oil Refinery As Result of Arc Flash - $77,000 Penalty

OSHA has cited oil refinery Calumet Montana Refining in Great Falls for one willful, one serious and one other-than-serious safety violation for hazardous conditions found during an OSHA February inspection.

"The employer modified high-voltage electrical equipment to keep the asphalt mill operating, despite the safety concerns this modification presented to employees," said Jeff Funke, the agency's area director in Billings. "It is unacceptable for an employer to place production above safety and health."

An arc explosion occurred at the company's Asphalt Mill on Feb. 11. One willful violation was cited for exposing workers to the arc flash and explosion hazards associated with bypassing a motor circuit protector switch. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

One serious violation was cited for unused safety signs, symbols and accident prevention tags that are necessary to warn workers about electrical hazards. In addition, one other-than-serious violation was cited for failing to post the voltage, current, wattage and other necessary ratings on electrical switches and panel boards.

The three citations carry a total of $77,000 in proposed fines. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The refinery has declined to comment at this time.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Five Misconceptions about Electrical Safety

This is not one of those articles that just provides a quick brush with five topics. The author, James White, writes about his actual experience and reminds me about when I was working in power plants in the 1970s.  For example, he tells about cutting the neutral wire in a lighting system:

"I became a pretty good conductor. The muscle spasms hurled me through three panels of the drop ceiling, and I landed on top of a secretary’s desk. Stunned — either from receiving the shock or having the wind knocked out of me (I don’t remember). I was written up later — not for an unsafe act, but for impeding the secretary from performing her job. When the plant manager asked if I had learned anything, I told him, 'Yes, I need to get off the desk quicker.' He seemed satisfied with that answer."

The five misconceptions are:
  1. The Neutral Isn't Energized
  2. Overhead Service Drop Conductors Are Insulated
  3. That Untested, Unproven Circuit Breaker Will Trip Every Time 
  4. You Only Need to Read Chapter 1 in NFPA 70E
  5.  Low-Voltage Will Only Give You a Tingle, Nothing More
Read the article in Electrical Construction and Maintenance


Video Shows Extent of a "Small" Arc Flash

A new video on YouTube shows that even a small arc flash is a serious hazard. Watch this video to see what happens during an arc flash when the arc does not sustain in equipment with a 30 amp disconnect.  The arc is less than one cycle and is 6/10 of a calorie.


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Arc Flash Electrical Safety

Jack Rubinger has an article on the DuraLabel web site about improving electrical safety by following the current NFPA 70E code.  The opening paragraph states:

"To ensure standards remain relevant, National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) updates their 70E guide every three years and 2012 falls on one of those years. In the 2009 version of the NFPA 70E, standards for electrical equipment only required arc flash labels to display available incident energy or required level of PPE. NFPA did not single out specific pieces of electrical equipment for customized labeling. In fact, electrical equipment labeling has never been a well-defined standard or code by NFPA until now."

Read Jack's arc flash safety article here.

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The High Cost Of Electrical Injuries

The High Cost Of Electrical Injuries

Canadian Occupational Safety magazine had an article about the cost of workplace electrical injuries.

The article tells the story of Paul Hebert.  Mr. Herbert was "working for an electrical company in Fahler, Alta., in 1989, the experienced lineman received a massive shock while repairing a downed power line. The incident, which sent 14,000 volts of power through his body and threw him 20 feet, seriously burned his limbs. Doctors had to amputate his legs, right arm and several left finger."

Now living in Arizona, and earning a living as a motivational speaker talking about electrical safety, Mr. Herbert is still recovering from the effects of the accident.

Read the complete story here.

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The Difference Between Arc Flash and Arc Blast

Arc Flash vs. Arc Blast

An article by Dave Johnson in ISHN magazine explains the difference between and arc flash and arc blast.

The article is titled "Arc Flash: A Violent Event." It describes the characteristics of an arc flash, beginning the article by stating: "An arc flash is distinctly different from the arc blast. It is part of an arc fault, a type of electrical explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to ground or another voltage phase in an electrical system."

The article explains that an arc blast is the explosive portion of an arc flash event.

 Read the article here.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Arc Flash Detection Technology

How To Specify An Arc Flash Relay

Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine has an article about arc flash relays.  The article notes:

"One way to defend against arc flash is to retrofit electrical cabinets with arc flash relays, which reduce arc duration by sending a trip signal to the upstream device faster than conventional over-current relays, thus limiting the incident energy and protecting workers from hazards. In many cases, the protection provided by an arc flash relay can reduce the level of PPE required for compliance with NFPA 70E safety standards and OSHA workplace safety requirements."

Topics covered in the article include:

Read the article in Consulting-Specifying Engineer

Using Fiber Optics In Arc Flash Detection Applications

An article in Electronic Design magazine discusses arc flash detection methods and the use of fiber optics to increase the speed of arc flash detection. The article states:

"The primary components of an arc flash detection system (light and current detector) are the arc monitor unit, control unit, optical detector, current detector and current transformer. The control unit receives signals from both a high-sensitivity light detector and the upstream current transformer, enabling it to determine whether to trigger the circuit breaker. Clearly, this signaling process must be both fast and reliable to minimize danger and damage. Fiber optics, with its inherent speed and EMI immunity, make it a perfect medium for an arc flash detection system."

Read the article in Electronic Design magazine.


See A Video Demonstration of Arc Flash Detection Using Fiber Optics


Engineers must consider arc flash prevention in the electrical systems. How important is timing?

A post on the Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine's we site raises the question of timing. The post is called "Timing Is Everything."  The opening paragraph poses the question:

"Because an arc flash relay depends on an existing circuit breaker to interrupt the current, does it make a difference in overall reaction time? And if the relay must wait until an arc forms, will the relay take longer to trip than the circuit breaker would trip on its own? Finally, how does the reaction time of an arc flash relay compare to an overcurrent protection relay?"

The question is, do arc flash relay actually work?  What do you think?

Read the Consulting-Specifying Engineer post here.



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