Getting a better grasp on the phenomena of arc flashes and a better understanding of how to protect electrical workers against these potential killers in the workplace is the objective of a multi-year, $6.5-million program launched late last year by the IEEE and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Background: According to a 2014 survey conducted by Littelfuse, Inc., 85 percent of the 825 survey respondents agree or strongly agree that arc-flash mitigation is important. According to Littlefuse, just ten years ago arc flash danger wasn’t a top-of-mind concern for many safety and health professionals. Before OSHA updated its arc flash protection standards, 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V for construction in April, 2014, its rule for protecting employees from the hazards of electric arcs was simply to not wear clothing that would increase the severity of a burn (FR 20460). The new rule clearly establishes requirements protecting electrical workers from electrical arc hazards. As with all OSHA-required PPE analyses, protection requirements and level of protection are based on a risk analysis. The updated standards state that employees facing exposures exceeding 2 cal/cm2 must wear arc protective equipment to prevent burns. Appendix E of 29 CFR Parts 1910 and 1926, Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment, provides guidance on how to select clothing that does not ignite; how to select protective clothing with an acceptable arc rating; and when the standard requires arc-rated head and face protection.