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Arc Flash Accidents: OSHA Updates Rules to Prevent Electrical Injuries

Arc flash is a specific type of electrical accident that occurs when the electrical current is sent through the air from one conductor to another—typically the ground. Arc flash accidents are responsible for roughly 7,000 injuries a year. Arc flash injuries usually result in burns that can be severe enough to require hospitalization. In some instances, arc flash accidents can even prove fatal. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), arc flash and other electrical injuries are particularly prevalent in the construction industry. Electrical injuries are one of the “fatal four” injuries that account for over half of all fatal construction accidents.

New OSHA Regulations Aimed At Preventing Arc Flash Accidents

On April 1, OSHA adopted a set of new regulations specifically aimed at preventing arc flash accidents. While the new rules focus specifically on energy and utility companies, OSHA is encouraging all industries to follow the new safety guidelines to protect workers from electrical injury.

OSHA requirements for electrical safety include:

  • Adopting an electrical safety program with well-defined responsibilities
  • Calculating the risk of an arc flash for electrical equipment
  • Providing all workers who handle electrical equipment with proper training about arc flash hazards and safe electrical practices
  • Providing all workers with the proper protective equipment (eg. insulated tools, rubber gloves and shoes, fire-resistant clothing, etc.)
  • Ensuring that all equipment that carries an arc flash risk is labeled as such

Common Causes of Arc Flash Injuries

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most arc flash injuries happen to workers who are not trained electricians. Many janitors and maintenance people occasionally work on electrical equipment, but without the proper training and understanding of the risks involved, they are more susceptible to electrical injury. For this reason, it is important that employers require all employees who handle electrical equipment to attend safety training classes.

Human error is another common cause of flash injuries. Sometimes that is the result of insufficient training. Other times workers are injured because they are not wearing protective equipment. Outside of human error, arc flash injuries can be caused by an accumulation of conductive dust inside the enclosure, dropping conductive items in the enclosure, or a simple equipment failure.

Have You Been Injured in an Electrical Accident?

Arc flash and electrical accidents general result in second- or third-degree burns. Recovering from burns of that severity often requires physical therapy and cosmetic surgery such as skin grafting. Medical bills can begin to pile up and injured workers are usually forced to take time off of work. As a result, the burn injury place a huge financial burden on the injured worker and his or her family.

If you have been injured in an arc flash or other electrical accident, you should consult with a burn injury attorney as soon as possible to learn about any legal options available to you. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

At Arnold & Itkin, our firm offers free consultations to burn victims all across the country. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.