Arc Flash Hospitalizes 3 Chicago Transit Workers

Chicago, IL – An electrical arc flash blew the panel off a transformer in downtown Chicago last week, injuring three Chicago Transit Authority maintenance workers and leaving hundreds in the area without power.

The arc flash relayed to a transformer, sparking a flash fire at an electrical substation near the intersection of North State and East Lake streets. Three workers were injured. Two were in critical condition with serious burns, and a third worker was also taken to the hospital but in good condition.electrical arc flash

Chicago Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford said the fire took place at a Chicago Transit Authority substation powered by ComEd. ComEd reported that the accident caused an issue with a circuit breaker, which left approximately 500 customers in the area without power.

An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion caused by 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, which often result in injury to workers and destruction of electrical equipment.

In an arc flash, temperatures may exceed 35,000° F (for reference, the surface of the sun is estimated to be 9000° F). This discharge of extremely high temperature causes rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, creating an arc blast. The arc flash and blast usually vaporize all solid copper conductors which expand up to 67,000 times their original volume when vaporized. The arc flash and blast produce fire, intense light, pressure waves and flying shrapnel.

A variety of things can trigger an Arc Flash, but most are preventable and can be traced back 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/or a lack of electrical safety training are some of the failures that can lead to a devastating arc flash or arc blast.

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. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash which include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.

Contact a member of the Martin Technical Electrical Safety & Training staff today to learn how to protect your workers and your business from the risks of Arc Flash.

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Telsa Fined $110,863 for Unauthorized Worker’s Injury

Palo Alto, CA – Tesla plans to appeal their largest OSHA fine to date. As the parent company of SolarCity, Tesla was fined $110,863 for 10 violations following the electrical shock and subsequent hospitalization of an inadequately trained SolarCity employee in December of 2017.

OSHA identified 10 worker safety violations at a SolarCity solar panel installation in Amherst, Mass. Four SolarCity employees had completed construction of a 19-acre solar farm at Hampshire College when one of the workers attempted to take a cellphone photo of an electrical panel. The employee suffered electrical shock and burn injuries when he entered theunauthorized worker electrical panel which was energized at 13,800 volts.

Federal safety investigators found that Tesla failed to provide workers with adequate training or protective gear. According to OSHA, the four SolarCity workers were wearing only Class 0 safety gloves, a rating which would protect them only up to 1,000 volts of electricity. OSHA found that the workers had each completed a Tesla-mandated online safety class, however they had not been required to demonstrate safety proficiency. Additionally, none of the workers onsite that day could tell investigators how far away they should have been standing from a 13,800-volt energy source, and Tesla hadn’t conducted required inspections of its safety procedures.

Without having demonstrated proficiency following their training, none of the four SolarCity employees could be considered Certified, Authorized, or Competent Persons under the law. OSHA requires that a “competent person” be one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are hazardous or dangerous to employees, and “who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” Without Authorized or Competent Person certification, these were not approved to perform specific electrical duties at the jobsite.

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Arc Flash Incident at Tennessee Nuclear Plant

Two contractors working near a 6.9kV electrical bus were injured in an arc flash incident on March 16th at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Soddy-Daisy, TN, northeast of Chattanooga.

TVA, Nuclear plant, Arc Flash

According to an event notification report from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) posted Monday, the two contractors were transported to a medical facility for treatment. “The cause of the arc flash is not understood at this time, an accident investigation has been initiated by TVA,” the report said.

The two injured contractors sustained first and second-degree burns. Both are employees of Day & Zimmerman, an engineering, construction and security firm based in Philadelphia. TVA told television station WRCB that it has suspended similar work activities until the cause is understood.

Neither of the workers were shocked or contaminated by radiation in the incident. The TVA’s two nuclear reactors at the site, Sequoyah Unit 1 and Unit 2, remain at 100 percent power, the NRC said.

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. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash which include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.

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Risk Assessment Could Have Saved Worker’s Life

Singapore – MW Group faces a $200,000 fine resulting from a fatal workplace electrocution. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has ruled that a professional Arc Flash Risk Assessment and safe work procedures could have prevented the 2013 fatal electrocution of a worker at the MW Group Pte Ltd’s Pantech Business Hub.

Following a five day trial, MW Group Pte Ltd was convicted for workplace safety and health lapses. The director of the local Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate stated that the employer knew that the technicians were exposed to the risk of electrocution, yet MW Group failed to provide workers with a step-by-step guide on how to do the job safely.

On the day of the electrocution, a MW Group employee was asked to test and calibrate the ARS machine. The worker held a high voltage probe to test the ARS from 2kV to 12kV and during the test he fell backwards and became unconscious. He died later that day, with the cause of death certified as electrocution.

MW Group, an equipment calibration and testing company, is being fined for failing to conduct a specific risk assessment and establish safe work procedures for the calibration and testing of an arc reflection system (ARS) machine. Safety investigations revealed that although MW Group had conducted a generic risk assessment for electrical testing prior to the accident and electrocution was identified as the only hazard, no control measures were put in place. The Energy Market Authority, in its investigations into the accident, concluded that no proper test fixtures were set up before the start of the high voltage calibration works. Additionally, it was determine that the worker did not maintain a safe working distance of approximately 1.5m from the “live” terminals.

The Ministry of Manpower stated that as the DC output voltage level of the ARS gradually increased, this difference between the worker’s body and the probe to test the ARS he was holding resulted in a flashover, or arc flash – a dangerous type of electrical explosion.

Singapore’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate said that “The employer knew that the technicians were exposed to the risk of electrocution…yet failed to provide the technicians with a step-by-step guide on how to do the job safely.”

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Canadian Mining Company Fined After Preventible Arc Flash Incident

Perth, Australia – First Quantum, a British Columbia-based mining company, has been fined $65,000 by a court in Perth for safety failures that led to a preventible arc flash incident dating from 2011. Unfortunately, First Quantum had identified the potentially deadly workplace danger months before an employee was hurt.

First Quantum Minerals employee Shane Russell suffered burns from an arc flash while working inside an electrical substation at its now-closed Ravensthorpe nickel operation in the southern portion of Western Australia. Mr. Russell was struck by a potentially fatal electrical discharge, suffering burns to his left hand and left side of his face. Russell was hospitalized but did not ultimately suffer any permanent injurypreventible arc flash.

Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety said there was no “hard barricade” behind the isolator to prevent accidental contact with uninsulated live bus bars. The department found an internal investigation conducted by First Quantum into an incident in early 2011 and an internal report that identified the danger of working on the motor control center without full isolation. According to that internal document, the potential consequence of an arc flash re-occurrence was identified as being “major” and the likelihood was “possible.”

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TN Lineman Recovering from Arc Flash

Dickson, TN – On August 25, Dickson Electric Systems substation supervisor Zach Spicer suffered second-degree burns to his face and neck in an arc flash incident at the DES Old White Bluff Substation.

According to the victim’s sister-in-law, Spicer “was accessing a breaker cabinet, high voltage side when contact or an arc formed, causing an electrical fault that released heat and energy…He remembers stammering around and seeing everyone’s expression looking at him.”

Two days after the burns, doctors determined that Spicer had not lost his eyesight and during the skin graft surgery they were able to not only save his right hand, but also his fingertips.

Spicer remains at the Vanderbilt Medical Center Burn Unit where he has undergone three surgeries and numerous procedures.

A second Dickson Electric Systems employee also suffered severe barc flashurns to his face and neck in the incident. He was released the evening of the accident and is recovering at home.

An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion caused by 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.

Temperatures can exceed 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F. These extreme temperatures rapid heat and expand surrounding air – the extreme change in pressure is known as an arc blast. The arc flash and blast will likely vaporize all solid copper conductors. These conductors expand up to 67,000 times their original volume when vaporized. The arc flash and blast produce fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel.

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. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash which include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.

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NZ Electrical Worker Survives Arc Flash Accident

Wellington, New Zealand – An electric utility worker in New Zealand has been awarded more than $85,000 in compensation after suffering serious burns in an electrical arc flash while working at a Wellington substation in 2014. The heat of the arc flash was so severe that the man’s pants melted on his legs.

The electrical accident occurred when two Northpower employees were performing maintenance work on roadside transformers. A bracket fell onto live contacts, causing an electrical short and arc flash. In court, the injured man testified that he had pulled a transformer off a panel, and was then hit by the arc flash and flames.

The electrician, who was 20 when the accident occurred, described the pain, trauma and ongoing effects of the incident in court last week. “I pulled the transformer off the panel and all I could hear was myself arc flash accidentscreaming and the flames and the arc flash,” he told Wellington District Court on Thursday. “All I could feel was intense heat and there was me, running for my life.”

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. Temperatures may exceed 35,000° F. For reference, the surface of the sun is 9000° F.

These high temperatures cause rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, resulting in an arc blast. The arc flash will likely vaporize all solid copper conductors which will expand up to 67,000 times their original volume when vaporized. An arc flash produces fire, intense light, pressure waves, and flying shrapnel any of which can cause electrical equipment to explode, resulting in injury or death to workers and destruction of electrical equipment.

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. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash which include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.

The court ruled that Wellington Electricity and Northpower failed to provide clear instructions to prompt workers to stop if they encountered increased risks or conditions; was responsible for not shutting off the power before work was undertaken; and for not documenting hazard assessments. The 2014 incident led to immediate changes in Northpower’s work practices, including a new approach to planning and risk assessment.

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2 Killed Maintaining Molding Machines at Kentucky Auto Parts Manufacturer

molding machinesFrankfort, KY – Two employees of Montaplast were killed in separate incidents last fall while maintaining molding machines at the auto parts manufacturing facility.

Angela Mitchell, 35, and Benjamin Cermak, 23, died days apart, both while performing maintenance on molding machines. Mitchell, was killed after a portion of an overhead crane struck her in the head while she was attempting to change a mold in an injection molding machine. Cermak was electrocuted while troubleshooting an incorrectly wired “pigtail” unit adapter that controlled the hydraulics of an injection molding machine.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet’s Office of Occupational Safety and Health (KOSH) has issued Montaplast fines totaling $21,000. “Serious” fines were issued for the plant’s use of swivel hoist rings that were stressed beyond capacity and were found to have not been regularly inspected. These rings failed during the mold change that killed Angela Mitchell.

Additional fines were issued for not using a “lockout-tagout” safety procedure during mold changes. State safety investigators also documented that no personal protective equipment was used during mold changes.

Montaplast makes precision plastic parts and systems for interior and exterior automotive engine components. With 750 employees, Montaplast is Franklin County’s largest private employer.

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Lockout Mistake Electrocutes Florida Worker

Auburndale, FL – A worker was electrocuted this week as a the result of a lockout mistake while attempting to fix a conveyor at Florida Caribbean Distillers.

Aaron Rowe, 33 years old, was reportedly attempting to fix a conveyor belt and had appeared to turn off the power. However, investigation has revealed that a wire connected to the motor was energized and the lockout/tagout system used to cut off power had been affixed to the wrong circuit breaker.

Lockout/Tagout refers to a system of that safety measures designed to properly shutdown machinery and ensure that those machines will not start up again during maintenance or servicing work. OSHA requires that each piece of equipment must have specific lockout procedures written just for it. The lockout procedurelockout mistakes provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source feeding that piece of equipment, which helps to prevent the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.

OSHA requires that lockout programs be audited periodically, and on an annual basis at minimum. A lockout audit requires a review of equipment or machine specific lockout procedures to confirm that each procedure accurately reflects the equipment’s energy sources and to identify any deficiencies. Regular lockout audits and evaluations ensure both compliance and a safe work environment.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office reports that Rowe was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital about an hour after being shocked. OSHA is investigating the incident.

Florida Caribbean Distillers produces rums, whiskeys and fruit liqueurs.

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Worker Fatality at Goodyear Plant in Topeka

Topeka, KS – A worker fatality at the Goodyear Tire facility in Topeka has Goodyear and a local staffing agency facing combined OSHA fines of over $40,000 and multiple federal safety citations.

Kansas Personnel Services had hired James Lay, Jr. to work at the north Topeka Goodyear plant early on March 14 when he was killed. Reports have not detailed the nature of the worker fatality, however officials have classified it as an accident.

OSHA has levied three serious violations against Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Inc. and two more serious penalties against Kansas Personnel Services (which also goes by the name Key Staffing). The combined fines exceed $40,000.

OSHA documented that Goodyear failed to make sure metal pieces leftworker fatality leaning against a wall did not create a hazard; had pendant boxes that were not constructed to prevent electric shock; and did not inspect alloy steel chain slings on a regular basis or did so at intervals greater than a year. In all, Goodyear was fined $27,713.00.

Kansas Personnel Services was fined $12,675 for allegedly failing to make sure metal pieces were left leaning against a wall did not create a hazard; and not ensuring each operator had successfully completed their training.

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