Are your maintenance workers trained to avoid arc-flash hazards? Find out how to increase electrical safety

by Brianna Crandall — June 7, 2019 — Littelfuse, a global manufacturer of circuit protection, power control and sensing technologies, just announced the results of its recent facility electrical safety survey. The global survey conducted by Littelfuse earlier this year finds that while most workers feel arc-flash mitigation is a priority in their workplace, only half have completed a risk assessment to identify hazardous areas.

[Editor’s note: The Department of Energy (DOE) defines an “arc flash” (also called a “flashover”) as “a release of thermal energy from an electric arc by the vaporization and ionization of materials, reaching temperatures up to 35,000° F.” ARC Flash Consultants, an electrical engineering consulting company, demonstrates the dangers of the light and heat emanating from an arc flash and the accompanying “arc blast” (DOE: “a release of mechanical, acoustical, thermal, and optical energy from an electric arc”) in this YouTube video.]

Of the facilities completing a risk assessment, 75 percent have equipment rated at high risk of more than 8 calories/cm². The calorie rating determines the required minimum arc-flash protection clothing workers must wear to protect themselves. To put that in perspective, the onset of second-degree burns may occur at 1.2 calories/cm², notes Littelfuse.

The survey reveals a need for increased safety awareness, says Littelfuse. Many facilities fail to conduct an arc-flash hazard assessment, provide safety training, or implement engineering controls to mitigate risk.

The survey finds:

  • 79% agree that arc-flash mitigation is a priority at their workplace; however, one in three workers have experienced an arc-flash event.
  • Arc-flash assessments were completed at 66% of the facilities surveyed. Of the facilities that completed an assessment, 77% also report having equipment at high risk — rated more than 8 calories/cm².
  • 85% are familiar with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, but only 40% are familiar with the 2018 edition of the NFPA 70E Hierarchy of Controls.
  • Nearly 25% of overall respondents said they have never received safety training at their workplace.

Peter Kim, vice president and general manager, Littelfuse Industrial Business Unit, stated:

Electrical incidents contribute to a substantial number of worker injuries and fatalities. Conducting an arc-flash risk assessment is an important first step to ensure the safety of workers. We conducted this survey to identify gaps in electrical safety and pinpoint additional training needs.

In addition to the survey’s results, the ensuing Arc-Flash Safety: Lapse of Electrical Safety in Facilities report contains research related to:

  • The hierarchy of controls
  • Workers’ use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Normalization of deviance
  • Causes of electrical incidents
  • Arc-flash risk assessments

The survey consisted of 255 people whose work plays a role in a facility’s electrical safety. The report looks at the results of the survey and how it relates to further research in electrical incidents.

Littelfuse helps facilities implement engineering controls, such as arc-flash relays and current-limiting fuses, to mitigate arc-flash risk and reduce dangerous areas by as much as 650%. For example, from 18 calories/cm² down to 2.4 calories/cm². To learn more about designing in electrical safety controls and to download the full article including the survey findings, visit the Arc-Flash Safety: Lapse of Electrical Safety in Facilities page on the Littelfuse website.