It found 84% of respondents were aware of the risks of electrical explosions and some 57% even had first-hand experience through either themselves or one of their colleagues.But the study found a gap between awareness and knowledge of legislation with 78% not aware of the government safety standard – HSG47 (avoiding danger from underground services).

First study

The research, which captured the views of 200 professionals across the rail, power generation, industrial electrical, utilities, and petrochemical industries, claims to be the first national research ever conducted into Arc Flash.It sought the views of not only on-site based employees but also senior managers and the employers themselves.The utilities, rail and power generation sectors were most likely to report Arc Flash incidents athough all other sectors were also well represented.

Calls for revised Government guidelines

Those respondents that were familiar with HSG47 were critical of the legislation, stating it was ‘far too ambigious’ when it came to recommending appropriate safety clothing and protection.Some 90% of all respondents said there was a ‘pressing need’ for the government to develop ‘more specific guidelines’ and legislation on safet measures.

Lack of employer support and education

It also found that a quarter of employers believed it was the ‘sole responsibility’ of the individual to protect themselves against Arc Flash. Additionally 50% said it considered the employee’s responsibility to ‘self-educate’ about the issue through their own research, and was not the responsibility of the employer.

There was also confusion about who within an organisation is responsible for minimising the risk of Arc Flash – 35% stated it was the appropriate industry body, 40% said it was the client commissioning a project, and 37% said it was the government through legislation.

Very real issue

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.”

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.”