Arc-Flash Safety: Lapse of Electrical Safety in Facilities

Survey Finds Need for Increased Arc-Flash Safety Awareness

An arc-flash incident has been experienced by one out of every three people, found a new survey conducted by Littelfuse earlier this year. Many people, the survey found, are not familiar with the Hierarchy of Controls outlined in NFPA 70 E.

Additionally, 66% of respondents said they have not conducted an arc-flash risk assessment, the survey found.

Incident and fatality statistics are full of heart-breaking and life-ending stories. Thousands of workers are admitted to burn centers every year for the extended treatment of injuries caused by an arc flash. When engineering does not control the arc flash and other electrical hazards present, safety is not foolproof.

Nobody should ever assume they are safe, or that their awareness or knowledge of a situation or of a topic is complete.

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

In addition to the survey’s results, this report contains research related to:

  • The hierarchy of controls
  • Workers’ use of PPE
  • Normalization of deviance
  • Causes of electrical incidents
  • Arc-flash risk assessments

The hierarchy of controls starts with the most effective and moves down to the least effective safety measure. Not all hazards can be eliminated, but the idea is that the closer you get to the top, the safer workers will be.

The hierarchy of controls is widely accepted as a good occupational safety and health practice for mitigating safety hazards. NFPA 70E follows the model of the hierarchy of controls. The standard establishes the deenergization of energy sources as the preferred approach to working on or around electrical hazards. NFPA 70E emphasizes that PPE should solely be relied upon as a last resort (or an extra layer of protection). PPE is not the first line of defense, it is the last.

When asked which standards and codes they considered themselves to be familiar with, almost 85% of the survey respondents said they were familiar with NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. However, when the next question asked, "are you familiar with the NFPA 70E's Hierarchy of Controls?" more than 40% of the respondents said no. This is concerning because a hierarchy of controls, as NIOSH says, has been the traditional means of determining how to implement feasible and effective control solutions. "Controlling exposures to occupational hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers," NIOSH says. The hierarchy of controls is part of NIOSH's Prevention through Design national initiative.