Is your company in compliance with the most current safety standards for arc flash? According to Stephen Herzig, an electrical engineer and arc flash safety specialist at Herzig Engineering, here are 5 things you need to know about current arc flash requirements.
Arc flash causes 2,000 burn injuries each year in the U.S.
According to OSHA, an arc flash is when a hot flash of electric current (up to 35,000° F) leaves its intended path and travels through the air, causing injury and death to any workers in the vicinity—as well as a fire hazard to operations. The blast can contain more than 2,000 sq. ft. of pressure, and be as loud as a firearm (140 dB).
Employers are required to protect employees from arc flash.
Arc flash is considered by OSHA to be a “recognized hazard.” According to OSHA 29CFR 1910.335(A)(1)(l), employers must assess their own workplaces for electrical hazards and provide the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their employees from those hazards. They are also expected to follow the safety standards recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in their most current reference guide, the 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace (such as labeling equipment for arc flash hazards).
You can receive significant financial penalties if you don’t comply.
“Companies that don’t follow NFPA 70E guidelines subject themselves to substantial fines and lawsuit liability,” Herzig said. “In our experience, we’ve seen lawsuits of up to $5 million and $10 million for fatalities or life-changing burn injuries that require skin grafts.” According to OSHA, medical care for an arc flash injury often exceeds $1 million.
You must now show “demonstrated” safe work practices in the field—not just training records.
“OSHA has really stepped up their requirements for training qualified electrical workers in the field,” Herzig said. “It’s no longer enough to provide documentation that you trained the workers. Now, you must also perform regular field audits to show that qualified workers are actually applying electrical safety practices in the field.” OSHA wants to ensure that employees are actually retaining the safety information learned in class and using it on a daily basis, he added.
It’s important to perform annual maintenance on arc flash procedures.
Herzig’s team routinely delivers Annual Maintenance Plans to help companies stay in compliance with ever-changing arc flash regulations. He recommends doing the following every year:
- Labeling—verify that all labels on electrical equipment are current and up-to-date.
- Field audits—perform field audits to make sure all of your qualified electrical workers are using arc flash safety procedures correctly.
- Updating—provide real-time updating of electrical systems.
- Training—provide standardized training in safe electrical handling and arc flash procedures.
- Documentation—document all training participation, safety procedures, and internal audits.
“The goal is to stay safe, stay compliant, and minimize long-term costs,” Herzig said.
Need help with arc flash compliance?
Contact Gary Porter, Director of Safety and Warehouse Equipment, at (913) 261-2143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.