Study reveals Arc Flash knowledge gap could be putting lives at risk
ProGARM, in conjunction with the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF), has commissioned a new study into electrical safety across the UK industry in a bid to shine a spotlight on the potentially life changing and threatening risks of Arc Flash. Alarmingly, it reveals not only a lack of awareness at every level to current safety standards governing Arc Flash, but an apparent failure from employers to properly educate staff about this high-risk threat.
The study sought views from 200 UK industry professionals across the rail, power generation, industrial electrical, utilities and petrochemical industries, and was commissioned to help ProGARM better support its customers and their industries when it comes to adopting often lifesaving health and safety best practice
It is thought to be the first national research exercise of its type ever conducted into Arc Flash, and sought views from not only site-based employees, but senior management and employers themselves.
High awareness and first-hand experience
There emerged both high levels of awareness to Arc Flash (84% claimed they understood the risks this type of electrical explosion poses) as well as an alarmingly high rate of first-hand experience, with 57% admitting they, or someone they work with, has suffered an Arc Flash strike themselves.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the Utilities, Rail and Power Generation sectors most likely to report Arc Flash incidents, though all other sectors were also well represented.
However, the research highlights an apparent gap between this awareness, and the appropriate legislation in place to protect workers against it; a staggering 78% of respondents didn’t know the correct government safety guidance – HSG47 (avoiding danger from underground services) – that covers working when Arc Flash is a risk.
Calls for revised Government guidelines
Of those who were familiar with HSG47, four fifths (80%) believed it is far too ambiguous when it comes to recommending the appropriate safety clothing to protect staff.
The vast majority of respondents (90%) also believed that there is a pressing need for the Government to develop more specific guidelines or legislation to better recommend safety measures, and appropriate clothing to help protect those working in an Arc Flash risk environment.
Lack of employer support and education
But perhaps the study’s most worrying finding is the 25% of employers who believe it is the sole responsibility of the individual employee to protect themselves against Arc Flash. Not only that, but 50% consider it to be the employee’s responsibility to self-educate about Arc Flash through a handbook or their own research – not their own responsibility as employer.
From all parties, there is also confusion over who in an organisation is responsible for minimising the risk of an Arc Flash, with answers ranging from the appropriate industry body (35%), the client commissioning a project (40%), the Government through legislation (37%).
Tony Arnett, Managing Director at ProGARM, said: “Arc Flash is a very real health and safety issue affecting industry professionals globally. However, to-date there has been little research into the number of people suffering from Arc Flash strikes - with many miss-labelling Arc Flash incidents for an electrical shock. In addition, there isn’t a broad understanding or easily accessible resource providing knowledge into this potentially deadly electrical explosion - making it very difficult to get a clear picture into the size and scale of the problem. That’s what makes this research study so fascinating.
“One thing’s clear; more needs to be done – both from a Governmental, and from an employer education perspective, to ensure that those working in an environment where Arc flash is a risk are adequately protected. While first and foremost, education, risk mitigation and prevention should be the focus, appropriate protective clothing is also crucial.
“This is something we work tirelessly at ProGARM to deliver through life-saving, cutting-edge protective garments developed with the specific requirements of the end-user in mind.”
Alan Murray, CEO of BSIF, said: “Here at the BSIF we are aware of Arc Flash, and it’s something we know our members are also concerned by. We do all we can to promote safer working practices for UK industry, and that’s why we’re fully behind this survey.”