Arc Flash & Electrical Safety News
Blog Author Steve Hudgik
Thursday, August 26, 2010
How Many Arc Flash Fatalities Are There?There is a statistic, that is commonly quoted, that says there are ten arc flash incidents per day resulting in one to two deaths per day. This statistic is identified as coming from a report compiled by Capelli-Schellpfeffer, Inc.
In a paragraph titled "Two Deaths Per Day" Fire Engineering magazine states: "An arc flash is an electrical release of energy hotter than the surface of the sun and capable of exploding with the strength of eight sticks of dynamite. It kills two workers a day, every day, year in and year out; arc flash injuries occur 1,000 times more often than a shark attack. A shark attack receives front page coverage in the newspaper; an arc flash fatality doesn’t make the news at all."
Is this true?
Are there two fatalities per day resulting from arc flash, but they just are not being reported? I'm an electrical engineer who has worked in power plants, paper mills, refineries and manufacturing facilities starting back when digital controls meant racks full of relays. I've not seen anything that indicates such a level of arc flash fatalities.
Yesterday I was compiling statistics from OSHA listing all of the workplace fatalities for a 12 month period - July 2009 through June 2010. All fatal workplace accidents are reported to OSHA. I noticed only one arc flash fatality during those twelve months. There were many electrical fatalities -- in particular resulting from contact with overhead wires. But the statistic of one to two arc flash fatalities per day is not supported by the facts.
I can't find the original Capelli-Schellpfeffer paper with this statistic. Maybe it is old and out-of-date, and facilities have updated to have proper labeling and protections in place -- with the result being a dramatic drop in arc flash inuries and fatalities. That would be GREAT news and a huge success.
But claims are being made that this statistic is true and current.
I don't minimize the danger of arc flash or the seriousness of arc flash injuries. Workers, and other personnel, need to be aware of the danger from arc flash, and the importance and function of protective equipment, procedures, labeling, equipment and PPE. We cannot take arc flash lightly. But we should not be using incorrect "facts" just because they serve a good purpose. When we start to change the truth, eventually our belief in fiction (aka myths or "old wives tales") will result in disaster.
The truth is that arc flash is extremely hazardous. It can happen suddenly and with great violence. It can never be treated casually.
Your comments are welcome.
posted by Steve Hudgik | This Arc Flash Post and 15 Comments |