Any worker working with or around electricity needs to be aware of the risk of arc flashes. They need to have the right arc flash shield equipment and training to minimise the risk of them occurring, and the damage that they cause if they do.
Because the risk of arc flashes cannot be overstated. At its most basic, an arc flash – which has the potential to reach heat levels roughly four times that of the sun’s surface (or 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit) – occurs when a surprise electric discharge passes through air between conducting elements, or from one conducting element to the ground. It can occur suddenly, without warning, and the risk of major injury or death is extreme.
There are four things that employers and employees can do to work together to minimise the risk of an arc flash causing harm. These are:

  1. Wearing the right equipment: Employers should provide arc flash shield equipment – properly certified personal protective equipment (PPE) – for every worker expected to work near a live electrical source or within arc flash event energies and protection boundaries.You must provide this equipment to employees who will be working within the range of arc flash energy and protection boundaries, or who are working with live power sources. It should not be the obligation of the employee to supply this equipment. What’s more, the equipment should be regularly checked for faults and replaced regularly.

  3. Training: Employees should receive training in disconnecting electrical equipment prior to working with or around dangerous electrical devices. Employers should provide electric safety training and periodic review sessions for all employees that work with electrical equipment. Anyone who works with electric systems needs proper training to understand the hazards and requirements to operate safely.

  5. Signage on-site should be prevalent, visible, and clear: Warning stickers about potential electrical arc flash hazards should be posted on all energised electrical equipment, explicitly delineating a protective boundary from shock, according to an arc flash accident energy calculation.

  7. There should be an adequate SWMS survey of the environment: Before any work is commenced, the work site should be fully and comprehensively inspected, and any risks of arc flashes occurring should be noted down in a SWMS document (you can contact NECA for support with SWMS templates and advice on their application).


Once the survey has been completed the SWMS document should also outline risk mitigation procedures, to minimise the chance of being exposed to an arc flash. Then, each employee on site needs to be fully briefed on the correct procedure that has been determined. Furthermore, a copy of the SWMS needs to be kept on site for convenient reference.
All of this might sound like common sense. However, it’s easy to become complacent about workplace safety – especially with regards to events that can happen suddenly and without warning, such as arc flashes. The only way to properly protect your people is through leveraging the right arc flash shield safety equipment and building a culture of vigilance across your workforce.
For more information on arc flash shield safety equipment, or how to drive better safety across the organisation, contact NECA today.