May is finally here and since we work in the electrical industry, May also means that it’s electrical safety month. When you have family and friends that work around hazardous voltages as we do, you tend to take safety, especially arc flash and electrical safety, a little more seriously. This brings me to the topic I wanted to cover today. When dealing with arc flash in MN or elsewhere, it’s important to fully understand that PPE is your last resort. Let me explain.
Since the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E: The Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace came out last year, one of the key changes that they had made to this edition was the emphasis on proactively reducing if not eliminating arc flash hazards from the employee + workplace equation. The way that NFPA went about this was by teaching and implementing a three-step risk assessment procedure. The procedure was to be used by the employee before any work was started and included:
Step 1) Identify hazards
Step 2) Assess risks
Step 3) Implement risk control using the Hierarchy of Risk Control Method
The Hierarchy of Risk Control Method in step three is an important method that NFPA wanted us to foundationally understand. They even put it right on the cover of the 2018 edition for even more emphasis.
What NFPA 70E gives us with the Hierarchy of Risk Control pyramid is the order of importance in preventing and protecting against arc flash risk. The order of risk control measures goes as follows:
3) Engineering controls
5) Administrative controls
When looking at the order, NFPA’s goal was to show the most effective ways to reduce the arc flash hazard first and least effective ways last. NFPA also understands that reducing an arc flash hazard at the source of injury will be the best way to keep employees safe so elimination, substitution, and engineering controls are the first three controls they want to be implemented. These controls typically deal directly with the electrical system which is the “source of injury” they are talking about.
The last three controls that could be used are ones that are least effective at reducing arc flash risk because they don’t deal directly with the electrical system but with the human element associated with arc flash risk. As we all know, any time there is a human element added, there is also human error. Therefore, the last three controls–awareness, administrative controls, and PPE, should be implemented in order.
As you can see, when it comes to risk controls used to prevent against arc flash, PPE is the last consideration–not the first. Keep that in mind when working around arc flash in MN or elsewhere this month and keep electrical safety on the brain.
If your facility has not had an arc flash risk assessment completed, we can help you accomplish that. Give us a call at our office or email us with any arc flash risk assessment, arc flash and electrical safety training, and electrical safety program questions you may have. We are happy to help!