Phoenix, AZ – Numerous buildings in the downtown area of Phoenix were without power for days following a recent fatal arc flash incident. One Arizona Public Service Electric Company (APS) worker was killed, and another was injured when an underground electric vault caught fire on Sunday June 30th.
Phoenix police report the name of the worker who died as Ricardo Castillo, age 42. Emergency crews who responded to the fire say that flames where shooting out of a manhole at the scene. Police have said that a 46-year-old worker had exited the vault, and suffered burns on his hands and face. That man was taken to a local burn center for treatment and later released.
Many in the Phoenix area were impacted by this tragic electrical flash fire. The fire that followed the arc flash left a number of downtown buildings and light-rail stations without power well into the week. According to a Maricopa County spokesperson, around 1,000 workers had to either take Monday July 1st off or work from home due to the power outage. Trials and hearings at the Maricopa County Superior Court complex had to be cancelled in the wake of this unfortunate event.
According to news reports, Castillo and the other APS employee were replacing a power cable in an underground vault when an electrical flash triggered a fire. APS and the Arizona division of OSHA will be working together to determine what caused the fatal arc flash.
An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in injury or death to workers and destruction of electrical equipment.
During an arc flash, temperatures may exceed 35,000° F. For perspective, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. The high temperature of an arc flash causes the surrounding air to heat very rapidly and exert extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash or arc blast can vaporize all solid copper conductors. These copper conductors will expand up to 67x times their original volume when vaporized. The resulting arc flash produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.
When an arc flash happens, it is without warning and lightning quick. The result of this violent event is usually destruction of the equipment involved, fire, and severe injury or death to anyone nearby. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage of an arc flash including conducting arc flash studies, hazard analysis and labeling, short circuit studies, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training. Please contact an electrical safety specialist at Martin Technical if your plant or facility has any concerns about arc flash risks.
London, Ontario – O’Connor Electric Ltd was fined $60,000 this week as a consequence of a Jan 2018 arc flash incident which burned three electrical workers at an Ontario shopping mall. The company plead guilty to failing to establish and implement written measures and procedures to ensure that its workers were adequately protected from electrical shock and burn.
At the time of the arc flash incident, a crew of six were upgrading the service in an electrical room at the mall. The workers were planning on installing a new disconnect switch and wiring. Three O’Connor Electric employees has started installing the disconnect when an arc flash occurred. Canadian Occupational Health and Safety officials determined that the existing service had not been shut down when work began. Mistakenly working on an energized electrical system lead to the arc flash which burned the employees.
In Canadian court proceedings this week, O’Connor Electric Ltd. and one supervisor plead guilty. The supervisor was charged with failing to ensure workers followed OHSA guidelines for properly disconnecting the power supply. The company was charged $55,000 in penalties, and the supervisor was fined $5,000.
Ontario Construction Regulations dictate that power supply “to the electrical equipment, installation or conductor shall be disconnected, locked out of service and tagged … before the work begins, and kept disconnected, locked out of service and tagged while the work continues.” Accordingly, the Ministry of Labour found that O’Connor Electric failed to establish working conditions compliant with that regulation, and that the supervisor failed to ensure that workers followed the regulations.
Arc flashes are violent and lightning-quick. They can cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in injury or death to workers and destruction of electrical equipment. There are many avenues to mitigate or reduce the risk of arc flash incidents and their threat to electrical and maintenance workers. Contact a member of our Electrical and Industrial Safety team today to discuss Arc Flash Assessment and Labeling, Compliance, and/or Training needs of your staff and facility. At Martin Technical, our goal is always to provide practical safety and efficiency services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer, and more efficient.
Strattanville, PA – A 2018 amputation due to machine guarding failures at a PA modular home manufacturing facility lead to an OSHA investigation which revealed numerous workplace safety violation and resulted in a staggering $687,650 in penalties.
On the topic of machine guarding failures, OSHA’s local Area Office Director stated that “moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries if they are not safeguarded…Employers’ use of machine guards and devices is not optional. Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that machine operators are protected.”
In the investigation triggered by the November 2018 amputation, OSHA documented Champion Modular employees’ exposure to numerous workplace safety hazards. Some of the machine guarding failures included damaged plastic guards on a table saw which exposed employees to the saw blade, work rests on grinding machinery not adjusted properly, a grinder was being used without the proper guard, and a hand-fed circular ripsaw found without a spreader and missing a kickback device.
Hazards caused by combustible dust were also evident at the Champion Modular facility. Combustible dust was found to have accumulated in the higher areas of the facility, which posed an increased risk of fire. Additionally, a dust collector that was not equipped with devices and systems to prevent fire was noted as having the potential to expose employees to fire, burn, and deflagration hazards.
Violations of federal Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) machine safety standards was another a part of the citations and penalties OSHA issued. OSHA inspectors found equipment and machinery at the manufacturing facility that was missing lockout/tagout procedures altogether. Additionally, Champion Modular allegedly failed to perform periodic inspections of machine servicing and equipment maintenance procedures.
OSHA investigators also noted electrical safety violations and hazards at the PA manufacturing facility. Electrical equipment was found installed and/or in use outside of the intended purpose, not in compliance with instructions. Inspectors noted duct tape and electrical tape being used to cover up and hold together a damaged control pendant.
Violations and fines of this magnitude are avoidable through conscientious workplace safety programs – Martin Technical is a leading provider of practical safety and efficiency services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer and more efficient. Our experts simplify complex workplace safety practices by applying real-world solutions for Lockout Tagout, Arc Flash, Electrical Safety, Risk Assessments, Training, Machine Safety & Safety Consulting Services.
Hayden, AZ – Three workers burned severely by arc flash hazards found at an Arizona metal smelting and extraction facility triggered an OSHA investigation which lead to this week’s announcement of penalties totaling $278,456.
The federal workplace safety agency released its citation against ASARCO this week, claiming two willful violations and one serious violation of electrical hazards standards at the Hayden (AZ) facility.
In its investigation of the arc flash, OSHA inspectors determined that the arc flash occurred after the insertion of a breaker into a 4,160V switchgear. ASARCO was cited for three violations of electrical safety standards: failure to provide the workers with a pre-job briefing before starting work on the energized switchgear, failure to render the electrical breaker inoperable before work began, and failures in providing the employees with arc-flash protective clothing (also known at PPE).
OSHA’s Regional Administrator stated that “arc flash hazards are well known, but can be eliminated when workers are properly trained and protective equipment is provided.”
Not only is electrical safety training required by OSHA, but it’s a vital piece of fulfilling an arc flash analysis or electrical safety program. Once electrical labels are visible, workers need to know how to properly understand the program and read the labels. Employees also need to understand the importance of properly care for their PPE, and how to do so. The need for every worker to understand electrical safety for their equipment and tasks in particular can not be over-stated.
Read more about Arc Flash Analysis and common pitfalls on our website, and contact a member of our Electrical Safety Team today to discuss how Martin Technical can bring awareness to arc flash hazards, get your facility compliant, and increase the safety of your workforce. Martin Technical is the leading provider of practical safety and efficiency services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer, and more efficient.
Lapel, IN – Three serious safety violations were found at the Owens-Illinois Bottling facility in Lapel, Indiana. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) issued $13,500 in fines for safety violations inspectors which it determined could have led to serious worker injury.
In an investigation last fall, IOSHA found serious safety violations including insufficient employee training and failure to lockout an electrical box while it was in the process of being repaired.
The serious safety violation related to Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) states that lockout “procedures were not developed, documented and utilized for the control of potentially hazardous energy,” during machine maintenance at Owens-Illinois’ Indiana bottling plant.
Additionally, Owens-Illinois was found to have failed to properly train employees on lockout/tagout and machine safety. OSHA requires that employers provide training to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control or LOTO programs are understood by employees.
The third serious safety violation concerned unused openings in electrical boxes, raceways, and other electrical equipment which were not closed when IOSHA conducted their investigation. Safety inspectors cited Owens-Illinois for failure to protect employees and equipment from exposure to electrical hazards.
Electrical safety, Lockout/Tagout, and training on both of these important components of workplace safety are at the heart of Martin Technical’s suite of safety services. Martin Technical is a leading provider of practical safety and efficiency services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer and more efficient. Our experts can help simplify the complex by applying real-world solutions for Lockout/Tagout, Arc Flash, Electrical Safety, Risk Assessments, Training, Machine Safety, and Safety Consulting Services. Please call a member of our Industrial Safety Team today to discuss how to improve safety and efficiency at your facility.
Hialeah, FL – OSHA has cited CGI Windows and Doors for federal workplace safety violations that include willful failures in machine guarding which will cost PGT Industries fines proposed to total $398,545. OSHA investigated the Florida window and door manufacturer following reports that an employee had suffered a partial finger amputation while using an unguarded punch press at their facility outside of Miami. CGI Windows and Doors is owned by PGT Industries.
OSHA cited PGT for two serious violations and two other-than-serious violations, however the bulk of the fine was for the willful violation of machine safety standards. In their announcement, OSHA stated that PGT Industries “knowingly disregarded machine guarding requirement intended to protect employees from caught-in and amputation hazards.” The Willful violation constitutes $258,672 of the proposed fine. In this case, OSHA applied the maximum fine allowed by law for the violations that can cause life-altering injury.
Federal workplace safety inspectors found guards absent on eight punch presses, a drill press, and a table saw at the CGI Windows and Doors facility. Three other punch presses were documented as having guards that didn’t cover enough area to protect workers.
The serious and other-than-serious citations were for hazards including failing to implement a program to inspect mechanical power presses and correct unsafe conditions; exposing employees to electrical hazards; failing to make sure employees wore hearing protection; and failing to develop specific procedures to verify the control of hazardous energy an industrial safety practice known as Lockout Tagout.
In response to OSHA’s announcement and the associated penalties, PGT asserted that they “share OSHA’s goal of ensuring the safety of each and every one of our team members.”
Conroe, TX – An electrical panel explosion and fire at Aegion Coating Services’ production plant sent two electricians to the hospital this month.
Investigators say two electricians were seriously burned when a high voltage electrical panel they were working on exploded.
According to the local Fire Marshal, multiple agencies responded to the emergency and the facility was evacuated as a precaution. One report described heavy black smoke billowing from a large warehouse at the site. The fire caused by the electrical panel explosion was quickly put out by firefighters. The chemicals present at this plant were a concern for area firefighters, but it was reported that no chemicals were released and local residents were not evacuated.
Both affected electricians were transported to the hospital for burn treatments, but were back to work when the plant was authorized to resume operations later that same day.
The Aegion chemical plant facility north of Houston specializes in pipeline coatings for both onshore and offshore installations. The incident is currently under investigation by the County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Please contact Martin Technical to learn more about Electrical and Arc Flash safety.
Yallourn, Victoria, Australia – A fatal explosion at an Australian Power Station is said to have been the result of a phase-to-phase arc flash. A unit controller with more than 30 years’ experience was critically injured during the explosion in the southeastern-most state of Australia which lead to his death the next day.
EnergyAustralia has identified arc flash as the cause of the explosion at the Yallourn Power Station, however a local union representative is not confident in that explanation and staff at the power station say they are afraid to go to work.
Graeme Edwards died after a high-voltage circuit breaker he was working on exploded last month. Edwards was re-installing a high-voltage circuit breaker on one of the plant’s four generation units when the explosion occurred, a procedure known as “racking.” EnergyAustralia stated that racking is a routine job but potentially hazardous. In this case, the unit burst into flames that burnt most of Edwards’ body. The worker was flown to hospital in a critical condition but died a day later.
EnergyAustralia said it believed the “sudden electrical discharge” was caused by a “phase-to-phase arc flash.” However, they have yet to determine what caused the short circuit which is the source of union and worker worries about the safety of the workplace.
An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode and can result in an arc-plasma fireball with temperatures in excess of 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. These extreme temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash/blast can vaporize all solid copper conductors as they expand up to 67,000 times original volume. The arc flash produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.
Yallorn Power Station workers will not be asked to use affect equipment involved in the incident until EnergyAustralia determines that it is safe to do so. An executive of Yallourn Power Station has said that risk assessments are being conducted and that all safety controls will be reviewed prior to resuming work.
A representative of the union which advocates for the workers at Yallourn Power station has voiced concerns that workers were not provided with the most up-to-date protective gear, including arc flash suits, similar to what bomb disposal workers use.
Georgetown, CO – Five employees were taken to the hospital following an arc flash at Xcel Energy’s Cabin Creek Hydroelectric generating station last month. Their injuries were not life threatening, and all were treated and released the same day. Xcel Energy self-reported that about eight employees and a few contractors were on-site at the time, and all were evacuated. The incident was initially reported as a fire, but upon further investigation turned out to be an arc flash.
The arc flash at Xcel Energy’s Cabin Creek Hydroelectric generating station occurred within Unit B, inside a self-contained concrete block. Because that particular station provides power only during periods of high demand, there were power outages or interruption of service to customers. The Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant was the site of an infamously fatal flash fire in 2007 which resulted in the death of 5 contract workers within a permit required confined space. Read more from original source.
When an arc flash happens, it does so without warning and is lightning quick. The result of this violent event is usually destruction of the equipment involved, fire, and severe injury or death to any nearby people. An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion due to a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in injury or death to workers and destruction of electrical equipment. In an Arc Flash, temperatures may exceed 35,000°F (for perspective, the surface of the sun is estimated to be near 9000°F). These extreme temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash/blast often vaporizes all solid copper conductors in a piece of equipment as the copper expands up to 67,000 times its original volume. The arc flash/blast produces fire, intense light, pressure waves and produces flying shrapnel. There are a variety of reasons why an Arc Flash can occur, but most are preventable and ultimately attributable to human error. Many arc flashes occur when maintenance workers are manipulating live equipment for testing or repair and accidentally cause a fault or short circuit. Improper tools, improper electrical equipment, corrosion of equipment, improper work techniques and lack of electrical safety training are just some of the events that can lead to a devastating arc flash or arc blast.
Industrial safety is not a glamorous, and there really aren’t any household names that are recognized across the industry, so when a celebrity talks about safety on a national tv show it’s pretty much the pinnacle of exposure for the safety industry. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame has been a proponent of skilled labor and safety for a long time, and recently he was speaking about his “Safety Third” philosophy on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show. In this clip at the 1:55 mark, Mike Rowe explains his view of safety and the expectations of what happens when we elevate the values of safety to “Safety First”.
As Mike explains, it’s not that safety isn’t important, but rather that “Safety First” can set expectations that somebody else in charge cares more about your safety and well-being than you do, and that if you just follow their processes, you will be safe. This is an excellent point as transferring your safety to another person or process can lead to complacency and reduce safety to background noise in your daily work. By stating “Safety Third”, Mike is trying to start a conversation and make people think instead of just following a rule or checking a box for their safety. This is much like the approach of posting speed limit signs at “14 Miles Per Hour” instead of the common “15” which is just enough of a deviation that it makes people stop, take notice and process their actions.
Where Mike is right is that the first line of safety is personal responsibility and self-awareness, which should be practiced always and not just when going through mandatory safety checks. What we are talking about is a hot topic in the industry; safety behavior. The challenge however is the complex set of traits for each individual and changing the behavior of each individual. Each person has their own physical and cognitive abilities, values, risk tolerance and behavior and the expectations of having everyone on the same level of personal responsibility for safety simply isn’t realistic. Guys like Mike are smart and experienced, but we also have to deal with the 22-year-old rock climber that would prefer to scale the racking system instead of using a forklift (yes, this was a real situation), or the new worker who just started and is afraid to ask which valve to turn in fear of looking incompetent and getting fired. So even though an individual may exercise good personal safety behavior, it’s not enough as they are still subject to others in their environment who don’t have the same abilities or care and may create a dangerous situation for those near them.
So despite best efforts by any individual to assess the risks and take safety into their own hands, we don’t always have control of unexpected events such as the co-worker turning the wrong valve on, a machine failing, or to bring it home to a level that everyone can relate to; a driver absent mindedly running a red light. This is why we wear seat belts; not that we are expecting ourselves to fail, but for the unexpected failure of another person or machine or unplanned circumstances such as hydroplaning on an oil glistening street after a light rain. And with this comes safety precautions, processes, checklists, and training to the point of numbness, which is where we pick it back up with Mike.
The infinity of safety procedures, signs and training is required to provide the knowledge and awareness to the workers for their safety and has statistically proven to greatly reduce injuries, so it’s not that this needs to go away as much as the volume of it or repetitiveness of it can seem like a process running in the background that creates an environment of complacency. Routine creates comfort, and as long as there is no incidents, the routine actions, safety processes and training disappear further and further into the background.
So how do we make safety more relevant and important? The key is bringing things home to a personal level and expanding beyond the forms and processes and into individual responsibility. Mike has done an excellent job with his crew by stating “Safety Third” which everyone knows that the expectation is that safety is your hands and not to count on a company, process or another individual for your safety. It is a big leap of faith for a safety manager to state that they are not responsible for your safety and put the responsibility back on the individual, but it’s a conversation that needs to happen. And to expand upon that, individuals need to know they are also responsible for the safety of others, which is how you build a true and proper safety culture. Further, safety needs to be personally relevant to be understood and practiced. Informing workers of codes and standards isn’t enough. Mike’s safety failures have resulted in numerous injuries, which
The other part that makes Mike program successful is his personal failures and his ability to transfer that to others. Mike is safety nut because he has had short mental lapses that resulted in injuries and forced him to re-think his safety and the safety of his crew. His scars and broken bones tell a story that make it personal and that others can relate to. This makes people stop and evaluate their personal situation instead of simply following processes, which is the whole point of Mike’s approach. Safety needs to be on a personal level and informing someone about a code will never have as much impact as an emotional connection to someone’s job and the realization that they or a co-worker may not make it home this evening.
As odd as it may seem, “Safety 3rd” may be a good mantra for developing a strong safety culture at your plant or facility by disrupting the routine and reminding everyone that safety may be the priority of the company or organization, but ultimately you can’t count on others for your safety and need to take responsibility for yourself and your co-workers. Safety managers can provide you all the training, tools and procedures you could ever need, but it you don’t use them and take personal responsibility….that’s on you.