While adequate testing can be an effective way of minimising the risk of arc flash when working with electrical equipment, there are still a huge number of incidents being reported all across the world. In a bid to improve workplace safety, it is essential that electricians ‘test before touch’ when working with — or even near to — switchboards.
Where’s the Risk?
There is a risk of arc flash when working with any sort of energised equipment, with switchboard work perhaps carrying the most significant risk due to the high fault current.
Activities that can cause arc flash include connecting into live equipment, inspecting live voltage conductors, working on low voltage conductors, and installing or repairing electrical equipment, but even those working in the area but not on the equipment itself can still be at risk due to the high thermal effects and chance of explosion and debris. A failure to test circuits before beginning work is one of the most common reasons for arc flash, highlighting the fact that simple testing really could save lives.
Major arc flash incidents can cause shock, explosion, and devastating fire, with a notable risk of life threatening burns and severe secondary injury through flying debris.
Why are Accidents Happening?
There are two primary reasons why electricians are failing to test before touch. Firstly, it is a matter of convenience. With a ‘it won’t happen to me’ frame of mind, many electricians are willing to accept the risk of arc flash to avoid turning off power to the switchboard completely, which can result in a need to reschedule planned works. However, while arc flash incidents fortunately do not occur all the time, they still form one of the biggest risks on many sites, and accidents can and certainly do happen.
Secondly, it is understood that many electricians believe that they are safe even if an arc flash event does occur due to the high quality arc flash PPE that is available to them. Personal protective equipment designed to protect against heat and flame can significantly minimise injuries during fire and explosion, but it is essential that electricians are aware that even the highest quality arc flash PPE has its limitations, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that PPE should only ever be used as a last resort.
Protect Yourself… and Your Colleagues
Testing may not always be the most convenient option, especially when you’re up against deadlines. However, a failure to test could not only result in personal injury, but also injury to those around you. Test before touch, and ensure you stay safe at work. You can also shop the Wearwell range of arc flash protection workwear online now.