A Real Life Reason for Arc Flash Safety

Arc Flash

Earlier this year, a real life reason for arc flash safety happened not that far from us. Up near the Minnesota border, about three hours northeast of Omaha, Current Electric of Sibley, the City of Sibley, Iowa, and Timewell Drainage were all cited by Iowa OSHA (I-OSHA) for improperly performing electrical work on energized wiring.

The resultant fine was the least of the parties’ worries; an arc flash explosion sent five people to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Miller Electric’s Reputation for Safety

The incident was a real life example of why Miller Electric is so serious about safety. As a well-known and respected commercial electrical contractor in Nebraska, Miller Electric has built a reputation for performing electrical work safely. In fact, we’ve started offering safety training to our customers.

“From our standpoint, it’s really sad, but it’s also easy to see why the incident in Sibley happened,” says Electrical Risk Consultant for Miller Electric, Jeremy Overman. “They were installing new electrical wiring to an 800A Panelboard while the circuit was energized, weren’t wearing PPE, and were not following lockout/tag out procedures. They’re fortunate it wasn’t worse.”

Interestingly, Timewell Drainage was cited by I-OSHA about a year earlier for not properly training their employees how to recognize and avoid unsafe working conditions and for not wearing PPE.

“People often think of OSHA as the bad guy,” says Overman. “But most of the time OSHA gives businesses and cities a chance to respond and do the right thing. When they come back and see that their recommendations have been ignored, then OSHA starts handing out hefty fines.” While some companies weigh the costs of fines against shutting down their electrical systems and choose the cheapest option, OSHA’s fines have reached historic sums that no company should feel okay accepting.

“The worst part about it is thinking that a human life is less valuable than what you stand to lose by shutting down your electrical system for a period of time,” says Overman. “We try to help companies set up proactive maintenance solutions that allow electrical work to be performed safely without disrupting their business operations. Sometimes that can mean a higher cost upfront, but in the long run, it’s money very well spent.”

Six Steps to Arc Flash Safety

Electricity is woven so intricately into the fabric of everyday life that it’s easy to forget just how powerful, and therefore dangerous, it is. It’s easy to develop a false sense of invincibility from unsafe habits formed over decades of working a certain way without incident.

“What we’re teaching companies is that it’s not enough to have a written safety plan,” says Overman. “You have to enforce it, day in and day out.”

Miller Electric offers a six-step arc flash safety program to businesses wanting to improve their knowledge of NFPA 70E safety guidelines, which are the same guidelines OSHA bases its recommendations on. Those steps are:

  1. Understand NFPA 70E and Maintain an Updated Safety Plan
  2. Train Employees in NFPA 70E Compliance
  3. Create and Display a Facility Electrical One-Line Diagram
  4. Perform an Incident Energy Analysis and Apply Labels to Equipment
  5. Provide Employees with PPE Recommendations
  6. Perform Predictive and Preventative Maintenance on Electrical Equipment

“OSHA expects employers and contractors and building or equipment owners to be arc flash compliant and they hold all parties liable for not working safely,” says Overman. “We believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to use the technology available to us to perform work safely. We also know it is possible to plan and conduct that work in such a way that business operations are minimally impacted, if at all.”

Miller Electric teaches employers, contractors, and facility managers to work safely, plan ahead to minimize operational disruption, and hire qualified personnel capable of performing electric work safely. “Participants in our NFPA 70E Training qualify for six continuing education hours,” says Overman. “Plus, we’ve got a trainer who is second to none. He lives and breathes NFPA 70E and has all the energy, passion, and answers you could ask for.”

Find out more about Miller Electric’s approach to arc flash safety or contact us today to reserve your spot in the next training class.