A six year collaborative study from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that workplace arc flashes could be more dangerous than originally thought. The two organizations reviewed more than 1,000 arc flash accidents to gain a better understanding of these types of incidents. Workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin argues that the findings show that electrical workers need more protection.
Arc flashes occur when electrical current leaves its intended path and moves through the air. They can be caused by tools, equipment, or even dirt and dust laying near the path of the current. When an arc flash happens, any nearby workers could suffer burns or electrical shock.
The recent study, started in 2008, found that arc flashes don’t just cause electrocution, but can also harm nearly every part of the body. Internal organs can be damaged by the pressure of the blast and flying shrapnel. Blindness is a common side effect because of the brightness of the blast. Hearing loss is also a frequent outcome of such blasts, as well as loss of skin and broken bones.
The two organizations found that there is a much greater need for personal protective equipment to protect workers who are vulnerable to arc flashes. Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer Howard Ankin agrees.
“I see a lot of workers who are only required to wear safety glasses and maybe ear plugs,” Mr. Ankin claims. “That’s not going to do much to protect against an arc flash. Most goggles aren’t tinted enough to prevent blindness. And goggles and earplugs don’t do anything to protect your skin, body, or major organs.”
Mr. Ankin argues that workplaces need not just better equipment, but also better safety measures. “The study found that proximity to the blast and length of the flash are two of the biggest factors in the seriousness of injuries,” Mr. Ankin argues. “Companies should put processes in place that keep workers away from current as much as possible and also shut down the current in the event of a flash.”