An arc flash or a flashover is a dangerous instance where there is an electrical explosion or discharge. This happens when energy is released because of an arc fault, and it results in electricity being propelled through the air from one conductor to another. The current often connects to the ground and conducts powerful energy. This discharge could be so powerful that it could claim lives or result to very serious burns and injuries to people within the area where the arc flash occurred.
There are four critical factors that lead to an arc flash. For the most part, the absence of a safety program and lack of proper training leads to a tragic event. While it cannot be totally avoided, there will be less damage if everyone within an organization recognizes and practices safe work procedures. Many reported instances of severe arc flash accidents and damages result from non-compliance to standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the NEC or National Electric Code. Added to this, lockout or tagout protocols are often disregarded. It is vital as well that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) are provided and worn the right way. Equally alarming is the fact that a good number of arc flash accidents happen because electrical safety training turns out to be inadequate.
With the last factor being a vital issue, the next question then is who needs arc flash training? It definitely is not limited to those who work as electricians! As it turns out, many industries and sectors have employees exposed to the hazard, and each of these personnel are actually required by OSHA to be given sufficient and continuing training. There is a distinction from the agency regarding workers who need to be given arc flash training, and the two defined groups explained below come with trainings appropriate for their level of risk and exposure. Suffice it to say that even non-electrical workers would need safety training as well if their area of responsibility is near electrical hazards.
As indicated in its regulations, OSHA states that any worker who may reasonably be expected to face the risk of injuries due to electric shock and other electrical hazards must be trained. This means that anybody who will work or come near exposed energized parts or lines should be equipped with the knowledge of its corresponding hazards. These employees, as part of their duties, must be taught continually with the developments of safety measures and emergency management. What they learn and what they are being trained to do must be integrated into the workplace safety plan so that it is standardized.
At the same time, those who are working within the vicinity but do not come within the boundaries of an arc flash would also need proper information. Though classified as “unqualified workers” to handle any direct and actual handling of electricity, machine operations and equipment handling, this group of employees must be taught how to recognize hazardous situations.
The specific job titles that OSHA includes as “at risk” and, thus, need arc flash training includes the following:
Blue collar supervisors. This is a mid-management post wherein a designated person looks after a team or group of workers involved in assembly of manufactured goods, service electronics and equipment, construction, loading vehicles, etc.
Electrical and electronic engineers, assemblers and technicians. This rather large group of workers is directly involved in the technology of electricity, and they work on devices, equipment, systems, power lines and generators, etc.
Electricians. Any person who installs, maintains and helps plan electrical systems in any establishments is considered an electrician. They are usually hired to work in homes, businesses and factories. However, in many industries, they have resident electricians who conduct routine checks of all the electrical connections and do immediate repairs, including work equipment and tools.
Stationary engineers. Also known as power engineers, they are trained in various areas so that they can deal with electrical, mechanical, chemical and other engineering issues. Stationary engineers typically work in industrial facilities, power generation plants, factories and warehouses, among others. But they could also be found in public service establishments like hospitals, and commercial and office buildings.
Industrial machine operators. This job entails manual or computerized control of equipment, and is highly needed in the manufacturing, storage and transport industries. They are also responsible for the condition of the machine or vehicle that they operate, addressing any malfunctions in a timely manner.
Material handling equipment operators. Just like an industrial machine operator, this job requires the experience, training and credentials of a specialized driver. They mostly work in fields where products need to be loaded, stacked, stored and retrieved.
Mechanics and repairmen. Anyone who is qualified and accredited to repair and maintain machinery is called a mechanic or repairman. In the workplace, their responsibility is to oversee the good condition of vehicles, machines and equipment.
Riggers. Specially-skilled persons who attend to the rigging of ship or aircraft are called riggers. They mostly come in proximity to electrically operated machineries and equipment, hence, the need to be trained in arc flash.
Welders. Also known as lit operators, welders are skilled and highly trained in fusing materials together. Their craft and specific activity entails using the welding power supply, hence, exposure to potential electrical accidents.
There are many other specific skills and workers that would need the arc flash and electrical safety training, but mostly because their functions are within the hazard proximity. In such instances, it is the management who must initiate that they all undergo training where they are briefed of the workplace safety structure and plan. With more specific trainings for the above-mentioned groups of workers, their course would be more intensive considering they work directly in the “line of danger”.
Apart from the arc flash training, another requirement is for the group of employees to undergo emergency response training. This equips them with the knowledge of basic shock response and action, medical emergencies and workplace protocols.
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