Didn't know anyone who had an electrical accident last month? Now you do. Think of the victims of these arc flashes this month when you start to believe you're impervious to incidents.
An electrician was hospitalized after being hit by an arc flash from a 440V transformer in a utility room at the Galleria at Crystal Run shopping mall in Middletown, N.Y., on March 21.
Two men suffered third-degree burns to their faces and hands and another received first-degree burns to his neck when an arc flash erupted from the breaker panel they were working on at the Tilcon Quarry in Haverstraw, N.Y., on March 7.
Three electricians are recovering from varying degrees of burns to the neck and face they received from an arc flash while testing new equipment at the Martin Library in York, Pa., on Feb. 23.
Dr. Mary Capelli-Schellpfeffer, a principal with Chicago-based safety consultant CapSchell, says an arc flash can be like a near-death experience for survivors and lead to unpredictable psychological fallout. “Even if a person has no specific damage from the event, the emotional toll from being ‘almost killed’ can be significant,” she says. The survivor will likely suffer the most from psychological trauma, but supervisors have to be aware of other employees' reactions and their own response. Co-workers may dwell on the fact that it could have happened to them, and it's not uncommon for supervisors to suffer from guilt because the accident happened on their watch. But dealing with those emotions openly can reduce their effects. “When a workplace is fundamentally respectful and organized around excellent communication, behavioral changes related to returning to work after an arc flash can be addressed and dealt with,” Capelli-Schellpfeffer says.