Arc Flash - A survivors perspective

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My name is Stephanie and im going to school right now to become an electrician and we just actually watched this video today. Its a very sad video and it scares me a bit but in my eyes it comes with the trade and things do happen unexpectally that you cant control. Its just one of those things where you have to hope for the best that you make it out alive like the guy in the video. Im hoping i dont come face to face with electricity in that way he did and im hoping i dont have to go through anything in that nature but you cant predict what will happen in this trade cause it can happen in a matter of seconds. It life of the trade i guess but im not going to let that stop me from doing what i wanted to do for a long time. :)
 

zog

Senior Member
Location
Charlotte, NC
It does not come with the trade anymore, if you follow OSHA and 70E rules for energized work and PPE requirements this type of thing is very avoidable. I hope they did not just show you this video to try and scare you instead of properly training you on the rules and regulations you will be required to follow when you get into the field.
 

wtucker

Senior Member
Location
Connecticut
...things do happen unexpectally that you cant control. Its just one of those things where you have to hope for the best that you make it out alive...you cant predict what will happen in this trade cause it can happen in a matter of seconds.
Instead of "hoping" for the best, PLAN for the best. The fact is that you CAN predict what will happen. There are no "freak accidents." There is carelessness, lack of thought and planning, and the complacency that comes from the wrong-headed idea that "it can't/won't happen to me." It can, and it will, sooner or later, unless you plan and take the proper precautions.

Ask any group of electricians to raise their hands if they've ever gotten a shock, and I guarantee almost every hand will go up. They're all playing the odds, and often they lose. And when they do, studies show that electrical injuries are disproportionately serious--most often result in either death or hospital stays, not treated and released.
 

iwire

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Massachusetts
There are no "freak accidents."
I really hate when safety people say that because it is absolutely untrue and when instructors say that my level of respect for everything else they present is diminished.

Yes, we need to plan, we need to be careful, we need to follow the rules and use good judgment but even with that unpredictable accidents can and at times will happen.
 

wtucker

Senior Member
Location
Connecticut
OK, I'll grant you that there are "freak accidents," in which the unknown and unknowable interfered. Nature always sides with the hidden flaw. But those accidents are so very rare. If we're really honest with ourselves, we can look at most accidents and see that they really were preventable, but what it came down to is how much risk we were willing to take. If it's a million-to-one shot, some might call it a "freak." How 'bout half a million to one? 100,000? 10,000? Do we even really KNOW the odds?

Then, you have to look at the likely consequence: If I take this million-to-one shot, will I die? Will I spend half a year in a burn unit having my skin debrided three times a day? Will I lose the thumb on my master hand, and therefore my career?

And how often do we hear guys say, "You know, I knew I was doing something stupid just before it blew up."
 

iwire

Moderator
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Location
Massachusetts
OK, I'll grant you that there are "freak accidents," in which the unknown and unknowable interfered. Nature always sides with the hidden flaw. But those accidents are so very rare.
I don't think they are so rare they should be ignored.


If we're really honest with ourselves, we can look at most accidents and see that they really were preventable, but what it came down to is how much risk we were willing to take.
Of course but we also need to be honest with ourselves and realize hind sight is almost always 20/20. So if we look at an accident and say to ourselves 'It was so easy to prevent, the problem is obvious' we need to really think was it obvious before it happened or am I just benefiting from seeing what did happen? (I hope that made sense)

If it's a million-to-one shot, some might call it a "freak." How 'bout half a million to one? 100,000? 10,000? Do we even really KNOW the odds?
I don't think the chance of a person leaving a unintentional booby-trap in electrical equipment is anywhere near the numbers above. So if I plan properly, wear my PPE, take all the right steps and while opening the switchgear a wrench that someone left in the gear falls down and blows out the gear could I have been expected to know that was going to happen?

And how often do we hear guys say, "You know, I knew I was doing something stupid just before it blew up."
Often, very often, but don't reduce your credibility by saying 'there are no "freak accidents' or the one I hear a lot is 'all accidents are preventable'. Just my personal opinion after being to many safety classes. :)

To be clear, I am for safety.
 

zog

Senior Member
Location
Charlotte, NC
I used to preach the same thing in my classes iWire, most plants I was teaching at had some sign or banner that said something like "All accidents are preventable", I called BS on those all the time.

(I know you are all about safety, the rest of this is not directed at you, just a point)
But that is the whole point of PPE, you don't wear a flash suit because you are planning on being in an arc flash, you wear PPE just in case an "aciident" happens so hopefully you have story with a happy ending to share. PPE is your last line of defense, safe work practices can only prevent most accidents.

I have PPE I keep that saved my life (As I know it at least), I know many others that have been saved from wearing it. I recently had a letter from a client that had just installed remote racking and had a freak failure occur while racking that could not have been avoided even if everything was done right, the plant guys all said multiple lives were saved because they were 150' away when it happened and no PPE would have protected them, that is the best feeling in the world. :)
 

wtucker

Senior Member
Location
Connecticut
iWire, Zog, I know you're all for safety. Most of us are, you can tell from our posts. The point I was trying to make to Stephanie, a newbie, is that plenty of folks in the trade will encourage her to take chances that WE know she shouldn't. They'll tell her that working live is OK, and a bunch of other lies that, odds are, can get her maimed or killed.

Zog, the "freak failure" you describe was exactly that. But thought and planning resulted in using the remote racking system and avoiding accidental injury or death. So it's a question of terminology, "freak failure," vs. "freak accident."

iWire, your example is similar: Although you didn't expect the wrench to fall, you did plan for the likelihood that SOMETHING unexpected might happen when the switchgear was opened, so you planned for that and donned the PPE.

Zog, I think you're wrong when you say you don't wear a a flash suit because you're planning on being in an arc flash, in the sense that you're recognizing that there MIGHT be one from some unknowable cause, so you'd better be prepared--in other words, plan on being in an arc flash. Or, plan on using remote racking so you can avoid being in an arc flash. You don't have to predict what might cause an arc flash, you just have to predict that the odds are, it'll happen for one reason or another. Don't, as Stephanie suggests, "hope for the best that you make it out alive."
 

zog

Senior Member
Location
Charlotte, NC
Zog, I think you're wrong when you say you don't wear a a flash suit because you're planning on being in an arc flash, in the sense that you're recognizing that there MIGHT be one from some unknowable cause, so you'd better be prepared--in other words, plan on being in an arc flash.
You just said I was wrong and then said the same thing I did, read my post again.
 

iwire

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Massachusetts
iWire, your example is similar: Although you didn't expect the wrench to fall, you did plan for the likelihood that SOMETHING unexpected might happen when the switchgear was opened, so you planned for that and donned the PPE.
Saying 'plan for the worst' is not at all the same as saying 'all accidents are preventable'.


I just find the use of those types of catch phrases in safety training both insulting and ineffective.

There are folks that made all the right moves and have still ended up hurt or burned or dead.

Be honest, say 'with the best of plans the stuff can hit the fan' try to avoid working live in the first place.
 

wtucker

Senior Member
Location
Connecticut
It's clearly not worth our time to argue over whether all accidents are preventable (BTW, it wasn't me who mentioned that in this thread.)

My message to Stephanie, which I think nearly everyone in this forum can agree on, is:

--Don't believe it can't happen to you, because it can. And when it does, it'll probably be serious.

--Don't let yourself be steamrollered into taking chances by co-workers who set a bad example and make fun of you for not working live or wearing PPE.

Here's something you'll never hear another safety guy say: Anyone who says "safety first," is either lying or naive. At any given time, safety MIGHT be first, quality might be first, or (more than likely) cost control or production might be first. But you can never FORGET safety or quality if you want to succeed in business.

Something else you probably won't hear a safety guy say: There are acceptable risks. But when the risk is that you might lose your life or career, you'd better think it through pretty carefully.
 
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