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Arc flash safety film warns of high voltage danger

A case study film launched recently by Queensland's Electrical Safety Office highlights just how dangerous arc flash can be.

The film, Arc flash safety—Mark's story, features an experienced electrician who speaks about the life-changing consequences of an incident at work which left him in hospital for three weeks and off work for almost three months and needing extensive rehab.

Mark had 18 years' experience as an electrician and was very confident but still ended up in hospital with his body charred and hair singed and needing painful skin grafts, as well as the emotional burden he and his loved ones endured.

"Don't put yourself in situations like I was just because you're trying to please a client, just because you're trying to get the job done faster," said Mark.

"If you've got a wife, kids, family, it's just not worth it. Nothing's worth your life."

Launching the film, ESO Head Donna Heelan said incidents like Mark's were preventable.

"In the electrical industry, working near energised parts can be just as dangerous as live work," Ms Heelan said.

"From our point of view, the message is simple for all electrical workers—plan the job and always follow your safe work procedures.

"To eliminate arc flash, always turn the power off and isolate the equipment."

In 2019, there were 10 serious arc flash incidents in Queensland. The case study film retraces how Mark suffered serious burns to his face, arms and legs from an arc flash explosion while he was working on a commercial switchboard. All he was doing was removing the insulation from an energised bus bar in a switchboard - but there was an electrical short and it all went wrong.

Back on the job, Mark has one golden rule he would like all electrical workers to live by.

"Don't work live!"

For electrical workers, there are three big tips for arc flash hazards:

  • Prevent arc flash by eliminating the hazard. Turn the power off and isolate the equipment, even if it means rescheduling the work to another time.
  • Arc flash is not just limited to large switchboards—it can also occur in smaller switchboards, electricity supply pillars or large electrical equipment, so plan your work and always follow your safe working procedures.
  • Working near energised parts can be just as dangerous as performing live work—it can cause electric shock, arc flash burns and damage to equipment. Common causes include inadequate risk assessment, or none at all; failure to test, isolate or isolate upstream, and inadequate supervision, as well as having no safe work system and the competency levels of everyone involved.

Further information

You can find more information at WorkSafe.qld.gov.au/electricity and electricalsafety.qld.gov.au.