How many Arc Flash incidents are there in the UK?
The answer, disappointingly, is that nobody knows.
Alarmingly, our own research revealed that a staggering 57% of electrical workers had first-hand experience of an Arc Flash incident having experienced or seen someone else suffer a strike during their career. This suggests the frequency of Arc Flash incidents is far higher than officially reported electrical incident statistics might suggest.
So, one of things we remain frustrated by here at ProGARM, is the lack of empirical incident data relating to Arc Flash incidents in the UK.
Despite being extremely dangerous – potentially fatal for those caught in one – the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) categorises such reportable incidents together with all other electrical work incidents.
With no breakdown into which of these minor injuries, serious injuries and deaths reported were caused by Arc Flash incidents, detailed research into the ongoing safety improvements needed in this field is hampered.
It can also lead to businesses and employees underestimating the likelihood of Arc Flash incidents and making ill-informed decisions about the level of PPE they need; we’ve all heard the line ‘It will never happen to me.’
What DO the statistics tell us about Arc Flash incidents?
The HSE states that around 1,000 workplace electrical incidents are reported to them each year, with around 25 people a year dying from their injuries.
Even in the US, where the National Safety Council reports there are over 30,000 workplace electrical incidents a year, the figures are combined making it all but impossible to get a reliable insight into what proportion of these are specifically Arc Flash incidents.
Unofficially, a commonly cited estimate (based on the work of Kowalski-Trakofler and Barrett (2007) in the US) would suggest that around 10% of all reported electrical incidents would be caused an Arc Flash.
And it can be assumed that the proportion of incidents which resulted in life changing injuries or death being caused by Arc Flash incidents are likely to be even higher.
The way forward
Here at ProGARM, we’re one of the UK’s only businesses to be completely focused on Arc Flash safety and reducing the amount of Arc Flash incidents. We believe more detailed breakdowns into electrical incident reporting are needed urgently.
90% of the respondents to our research believe that there’s a pressing need for the Government to develop more specific guidelines about Arc Flashes.
We’re very supportive of the new legislation introduced in April 2018 under the new PPE Regulation, read more here, and feel that the next essential step is to remove inconsistencies and inaccuracies in incident reporting. With better data insights, safety standards would be better informed and more lives would be saved through a greater understanding of Arc Flash incidents.
Every workplace death is an untimely death and a tragedy that could be avoided with the right level of training, right safety precautions and right protective equipment. We’re doing our bit to pioneer safety innovations in that last line of defence for everyone working with electrical equipment, but it can be hard to make the case for spending money on that equipment if Arc Flash remains a hidden danger.
To speak to one of our sector experts about the range of ProGARM clothing and equipment that’s right for you, call +44 (0) 1482 679 600
This is one post in a series ‘All about Arc Flash’. Continue reading the next in the series or return to the start if you like.