Electricians and other employees who work on electrical equipment are at risk of arc flash injuries. According to a recent G&W Electric white paper, approximately 30,000 arc flash incidents happen every year, resulting in 7,000 burn injuries, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 400 fatalities. In Pennsylvania, those who were injured in arc flash incidents at work and the survivors of workers who were fatally injured by arc flash may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
What is Arc Flash?
A fault in an electrical system may result in an electrical explosion of light and heat, also called an arc flash. Arc flash temperatures are extremely hot, reaching temperatures up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is commonly caused by improper insulation installation, buildup of debris on insulating surfaces, equipment failure, liquid spills near equipment, animal interference, or human error.
Workers’ proximity to the flash determines the extent of their injuries. Those who are closest to the arc flash may suffer severe injuries, including:
- Electrical shock
- Eyesight damage
- Fall injuries
- Hearing damage
- Lacerations and other injuries from flying debris or equipment
- Skin burns
However, even those who are 10 feet away from the arc flash center may be severely injured. The white paper reports that 80 percent of electrical worker fatalities are due to burns, not shock.
Arc Flash Mitigation
Current limitation and arc flash mitigation are two essential means of safeguarding workers from arc flash injuries. Current limiting devices generally work by limiting the amount of released energy to which a worker is exposed.
Such conventional means of fault interruption can take five or more cycles to clear a fault. However, newer arc flash mitigation equipment can detect and eliminate faults in one-quarter to one-half cycle. Whatever means of protecting workers from arc flash employers choose to implement, they must train workers on the hazards associated with arc flash and the appropriate safety measures to prevent injury.
Current Regulations and Requirements
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have also published papers and recommendations for minimizing the risk associated with arc flash events in the workplace. Those who work on electrical equipment should wear nonconductive head protection, goggles, and protective clothing whenever they are potentially exposed to energized parts.
Employers must also comply with several Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, including the requirements to:
- Perform a personal protection equipment (PPE) hazard assessment to determine necessary PPE for workers
- Train employees on safety-related work practice pertaining to their jobs
- Have qualified personnel test circuit elements and electrical parts
- Provide the appropriate PPE to employees working around potential electrical hazards
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Obtain Compensation for Arc Flash Injuries
If you were injured or you lost a loved one due to an arc flash event at work, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. You may be eligible for various types of workers’ compensation benefits, including payment for medical expenses, wage loss compensation, and death benefits. For a free consultation, please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW.
Located in Philadelphia, Bensalem, Lansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading,Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.