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Arc Flash Survivor Testimonial

Jim Pollard

WARNING: some readers may be offended by the graphic content used to document this worker’s injuries. The following is a synopsis of the full, detailed testimonial that includes additional images. Download the full version for FREE from our website library.

Arc Flash Survivor: We’ve partnered with this worker to share his testimonial about human perseverance and the devastating effects of an Arc Flash. This is his firsthand account of the incident that resulted in significant burns to his unprotected hands. Thankfully he was wearing an Arc Flash Suit that prevented any other injuries. An Arc Flash is an electrical hazard that is a low frequency, high consequence event that can result in catastrophic injuries. Arc Flash PPE is applied as a control to reduce bodily injury or damage to health, lowering Risk.

Arc Flash Incident, March 2015

One worker was involved in the incident, a Journeyman Electrician working in the Electrical Instrumentation department at a Pulp Mill in Canada.

“I remember a big bang and extremely bright flash and an intense heat. “

Electrical System: incoming is 600Vac and is rectified to 690Vdc feeding some large motors in our process. These are a rack in/out style breaker with a spring loaded charging system to make and break the connections. Before this breaker there is no protection. The feed comes right off of the secondary of a 4160V/600V transformer.

Work Task: On the day of the shutdown I took the breaker to the substation. I did a quick inspection and made sure the back control alignment posts looked straight as we have had issues with these not aligning in the past. Everything seemed fine so I proceeded to install this in the cradle.  I then grabbed my Oberon arc flash gear, put on the PPE, and proceeded to install the breaker.

Installation of Circuit Breaker: It was first set onto the cradle rails and rolled into its locked position to start cranking it in. I removed the lift and then grabbed the crank.  This is where in the past we would now have issues with the alignment when cranking it in. I then went to my cart and tools to grab my flashlight to see inside. At this point the door is still open to take visuals. I left my gloves back at the cart and was looking in at the connections with my flash light. I started to crank in the breaker to the first position watching the control power connection. Now there is a spot that the breaker automatically stops at in the testing position. It hit this spot nicely. Everything seemed really good. I even remembered thinking to myself how easy it felt going in. I then proceeded to crank it the rest of the way in and I think I got maybe a turn and a half and then the explosion occurred.

“It was completely black and I was pretty scared and not knowing what was going on.”

Arc Flash Incident: I remember a big bang and extremely bright flash and an intense heat. I was thrown back into the MCC section behind me. I ran in the direction that I thought was away from the breaker as I couldn’t see. It was completely black and I was pretty scared and not knowing what was going on. I then body checked another MCC section as I was running away. I took off the hood to see what the rest of my body looked like and this is when I saw that the skin on my hands was peeled off and hanging from my fingers. I was thankful to see this was the only thing wrong…

Emergency: Following the incident I received first aid at my workplace, initial treatment at the local hospital, then transferred to a larger hospital in the City. That is where they cut off all the skin that was hanging off my hands and dressed the burns…

Surgery: This included general anesthesia so Doctors could scrape off all the dead skin and decide if they were going to graft…

<Hospital Timeline provided with images>

Recovery: I spent a total of 12 days in the hospital. From here I went home which was still a battle for me as I slowly had to detox from all the medication, taking another week before I started feeling normal again…

Back to Work: After a few weeks at home I went back to work on light duty. This would last for about 3 weeks until I was able to get back to my normal duties. This was still not easy for other reasons. I had to try get back into the arc flash gear and rack in and out breakers which was very tough…

Arc Flash PPE Recommendations: Arc Flash Suit hoods are now available with LED lamps and Clear Grey shield windows. This worker would have been saved from his injuries if he had not removed his gloves to operate a flashlight. Recent innovations in Arc Flash PPE design help workers see clearer, making the work task easier to perform. Employers can learn from this testimonial to make better, more informed decisions about the types of Arc Flash PPE available that are safer and more appropriate for the work task.

Additional Details: Download the full testimonial from our website library. The full testimonial can be used as a learning aid while training on electrical safety. True stories from an Arc Flash Survivor help educate and reinforce the requirement for workers to wear all of their PPE and to never remove any part of their total protection system.

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