News & Views

29th November 2018

One fatality and four serious injuries after a spate of arc flash incidents

In the last three months, there has been one fatality and three serious burn injuries due to the following arc flash incidents. 

November 2018 - A Victorian man died in hospital after an explosion at the Yallourn Power Station, in Victoria's east. 

November 2018 - Two NSW men suffered severe burns, and one is in critical condition after a switchboard explosion at an apartment block. Both men were rushed to separate hospitals, the Royal North Shore Hospital and the Concord General Hospital, after an explosion at a Burwood apartment block in Sydney's inner-west.

October 2018 - A Queensland electrical worker received burns to his hand, neck and face from an arc flash while he was terminating cables running to a switchboard.

September 2018 - A Queensland electrical worker received burns to his hands when his pliers shorted two phases while attempting to fit a three-phase circuit breaker to a live switchboard.

Preventing a similar incident

Before you start work, you must identify hazards and put measures in place to control the risk of electric shock, explosion or fire. Electrical safety laws prohibit work on energised electrical equipment unless: 

  • It is necessary in the interests of health and safety that the electrical work is carried out while the equipment is energised. For example, it may be necessary for life-saving equipment to remain energised and to operate while electrical work is carried out on the equipment.
  • It is necessary that the electrical equipment to be worked on is energised for the work to be carried out properly.
  • It is necessary for the purposes of testing to ensure the equipment is de-energised.
  • There is no reasonable alternative means of carrying out the work.

On or near
AS/NZS 4836:2011 (Safe working on Electrical Installations) defines On or near as a situation where an electrical worker is working on or near exposed energised conductors or live conductive parts and there is a reasonable possibility that the electrical worker’s body, or any conducting medium the electrical worker may be carrying or touching during the course of the work, may come closer to the exposed than energised conductors or live conductive parts than 500mm. It means that you should never work on or near energised electrical equipment just because it is more convenient. You need to consider your environment and the nature of the work you are performing. The business impact does not outweigh the risk of working live.

Workplace Health and Safety legislation and codes of practice include testing in the definition of Electrical Work. The legislation also prohibits energised electrical work, but does allow testing by a competent person under certain conditions. Electricians get involved in testing or fault finding as part of their everyday work even if it is just performing the essential “test before you touch” process. Workplaces should be implementing a PPE policy at least in line with ENA NENS 09 2014 National Guideline for the Selection, Use and Maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment for Electrical Arc Hazards. ENA recommends a minimum of  4 cal/cm2 for everyday wear. Higher exposure levels may be required for certain tasks on certain equipment as per the results of the arc flash risk assessment. As it stands, non arc rated synthetic or cotton workwear can melt or ignite increasing the severity of the injuries to the workers they were purchased to protect.

Electricians need arc rated clothing. An electrical arching fault – an “Arc Flash,” is a real risk to electricians, as arc flashes create a great deal of energy, which is sufficient to cause severe burns or ignite flammable materials – including clothing. Allowing electricians to deal with these arc flashes safely, protective clothing was developed to minimise the impact of coming into proximity to one. 

Unlike regular cotton protective clothing, which is untreated to be fire retardant, and therefore can catch fire and continue to burn (causing greater injury to the wearer as a result), arc rated clothing is manufactured to strict standards that mean it will self-extinguish, once the arc has been dealt with, minimizing any damage done to the wearer.

Your source for arc rated protective clothing
NECA carries a wide range of fully certified arc rated clothing. Whether you’re looking for simple shirts and pants, shirts with reflective material built in for high visibility, coveralls or jackets, we’ve got your needs covered. In addition to an extensive range, we guarantee that our products are of an exceptionally high quality, and a highly competitive price. We only carry clothing that’s designed to last, so when the time comes to replace a piece of clothing that has finally worn out, you can be sure that your next purchase with us will be the last you need to make for a while.
If you have any questions about whether you need arc rated clothing in your work environment, feel free to contact us for more information and advice. 

Statistics from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
In Queensland alone, there have been 32 incidents involving an arc flash since 2013. Of these, 20 resulted in injuries requiring hospitalisation. In the same period, seven notices were issued in relation to an arc flash. Each year in Queensland, there are around 48 accepted workers’ compensation claims involving a worker contacting electricity, which results in an electrical burn. Roughly, a quarter of these involve a serious injury requiring five or more days off work. Incidents involving contact with electricity in the construction and manufacturing industries account for 24% and 16% of claims respectively. Transformers and switchboards are statistically most likely to be involved in incidents causing electrical burns. 

For further information on prevention of arc flash fatalities, please contact Owen Leslie on 0488 665 653.

For information and advice on purchasing arc rated clothing, contact NECA Trade Services on 1300 361 099.