It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that anyone working in at-risk environments has the knowledge and training they need to carry out their duties safely. This means that if you work in environments where there is a risk of arc flash, then you probably already know the hazards of arc flash, whether or not you need arc flash PPE and what to look for in arc flash workwear. What isn’t always as clear however, is whether or not there are any arc flash safety procedures, and if so, which ones you should follow.
Arc Flash Safety Procedures
The truth is that each and every employer will likely have their own arc flash safety procedures that they promote on site. These procedures may change depending on the environment and the identified risk. However, there are two arc flash safety procedures that are pretty universal and should be followed by anyone working in situations where a risk of arc flash has been identified.
These safety procedures are:
1. Conduct an Arc Flash Risk Assessment
It may seem like an obvious procedure, but it is surprising how many employers fail to conduct an arc flash risk assessment. Contrary to popular belief, identifying a risk of arc flash isn’t always enough to ensure workplace safety; it is better to conduct a full assessment of this risk in order to determine the severity and likelihood of an event.
While there are a number of ways to conduct an arc flash risk assessment, they typically all follow the same pattern: identify, estimate and determine. This assessment can help you to identify specific hazards on site (such as equipment above 240 Volts), estimate how likely an event is and the chance of burns based on cal/cm2, and determine what protective measures (degree of PPE, for example) are best to minimise individual risk.
2. Create a Safe Working Environment
This is yet another procedure that sounds obvious and yet it’s one that is often overlooked. Creating a safe working environment is important for two reasons. Firstly, boosting workplace safety is a key component to minimising the risk of arc flash. Secondly, having a safe environment in which to work reduces the risk of a huge amount of other risks, including everything from a simple trip to an electric shock.
Creating a safe working environment involves staying organised, maintaining and being responsible for your own workspace, and following the useful pointers found within the NFPA 70E standard for ‘establishing an electrically safe work condition’. This includes identifying all sources of energy, operating the disconnect, releasing stored energy, applying lock-out devices, testing for absence of voltage, and installing temporary protective grounds if the situation requires this. Learn about the standard here.
Which Procedure Should I Follow?
Both! While your employer or place of work may well have their own arc flash safety procedures in place, the two procedures above can be applied to any working environment, and both are essential in boosting safety and minimising arc flash risk.