Electrical flash-overs also called arc flash accidents occur all the time and have the ability to cause serious injuries. While one of the best ways to manage these electrical arc flash events is to implement the appropriate controls and utilise the correct PPE, it is also useful to remember the 3 P’s to make managing electrical arc flashes a little easier.
The UK standard for dealing with an Arc Flash hazard is useful to remember because according to it, arc flash hazards can be handled in the following way:
Prediction is the first P in the 3 P system. This involves predicting the likelihood of an arc flash taking place and the severity and scope of the impact.
Workers can predict the likelihood of the arc flash occurring by assessing the amount of “incident energy” is received during an event by a person within the reach of the arc.
The next step in the process is prevention. We should try to prevent the arc flash from occurring in the first place. We must also make certain that the risk from arc flash is addressed at this level through either designing out, elimination entirely or by remove the hazard at its source.
3. Personal Protective Equipment:
Similarly to the Hierarchy of Controls method, the 3 P method advocates utilising personal protective equipment as the last resort. As with other hazards, PPE should always be the last line defence in dealing with arc flash events.
Even though it is lowest on the hierarchy of controls and the 3P list, PPE can be extremely useful for managing electrical arc flash events. It is important however that the correct PPE is utilised and workers are trained on correct use.
Arc flash PPE should be chosen based on either:
- an incident energy analysis method or
- a hazard/risk category method.
When addressing arc flash hazards, as with any hazard in the construction industry, communication and training play a crucial role in managing hazards.
Employers and site controllers must ensure that assessment and strategies as well as plans set in place to manage this hazard are communicated to workers and well documented so that they can refer back to it when necessary.
Workers must be trained on the hazards that they face including electrical risks. Training for all workers in the construction trades begins with ensuring everyone has completed general construction safety training in the form of the White Card Course.
The White Card course which has been mandated by the federal government for all workers in construction to improve workplace health and safety in this industry, covers the most common construction hazards in general. Electrical hazards, work from height hazards, manual handling hazards are just some of the hazards covered by the white card training, however it is the duty of employers to ensure that workers receive the necessary additional training on hazard such as arc flash hazards and any other hazards specific to the site.