Minimise Arc Flash risk with 6 step guide, including Arc Flash garments
Cable strikes are a real danger for teams employed in breaking ground every day. There are an estimated 60,000 strikes of underground cables every year in the UK, representing a growing problem for those in the utility sector as employees suffer injuries and companies lose time and money.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including Arc Flash protective garments, is an excellent last line of defence against these dangers, but what about trying to prevent incidents in the first place? There are several practical things your company can do to minimise the risk of a cable strike.
Knowing what you’re going to do immediately lowers risk for any team. Good planning incorporates all elements of the work ahead, including ensuring that your team have correct drawings and drawing legends to understand the area. These drawings are just the first step and should be used as a guide for your team to make their own survey of the area which may include more recent works.
Another pivotal aspect of planning is marking out the other services within the working area to make sure you know where other cables area, up to and including LV street light supplies.
2. Safe Digging Practices
Your team should create an exclusion zone around the starting surface and begin work with under mining. This removes the risk of striking cables just below the surface with mechanical plant equipment. Cables and services should also be protected when they’re exposed by maintaining an exclusion zone until the work is completed. It should go without saying that all operatives must be supplied with the correct permits to dig and that their areas of work should be clearly marked out by barriers and fencing to protect the public.
It’s the responsibility of you and your team to report anything unexpected or unusual to the relevant service providers or authorities. For instance, if there are services installed in the area that you didn’t expect to find there, that must be reported as the plans are incomplete and potentially dangerous. If you caused any damage, you must report that immediately too.
4. Working Sensibly
Promote a culture of working that uses the common sense of the operatives. Ensuring that access to and from excavations is secure and doesn’t use any of the exposed services as a stepping stone is simple yet is sometimes ignored by those in a hurry. Equally, service marks can be covered up by excavated materials which, in the worst-case scenario, leads to your operatives working blindly towards a hazard. Undue speed is one of the most dangerous aspects of breaking ground. Working diligently and utilising all knowledge keeps your operatives safe, so ensure that there is enough time to complete any works and that a culture of safe working practices prevail.
5. Training Implementation
It’s all very well for your team to sit in seminars learning about safe working practices. It’s quite another to put these practices into effect in the field. Taking part in training can be assessed easily, but how can you be certain that safety information about breaking ground is being used when your team is at work? You need to have a robust system of ensuring that knowledge application is used while at work and that any gaps in understanding are plugged.
6. Supply Correct PPE
Ensure that your last line of defence is effective by supplying the correct PPE in the correct size to your team. Once you’ve undertaken your risk assessments, it’s vital that the right Arc Flash garments and other equipment is used to ensure the safety of your operatives during their work. The risk of cable strikes can be minimised, but you still need to invest in appropriate protective clothing and equipment for your team – just in case.