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Arc flash incident a reminder follow safety protocols

arc flash, electricity, electrocute

Authorities are saying safety protocols may not have been followed when an electrical worker was injured by an arc flash at a Queensland coal mine.

A group of workers were tasked with performing maintenance work on a 1000v component of an 11,000v (kv) underground transformer at a Bowen Basin coal mine. During this maintenance, one worker opened and entered the 11kv enclosure when the incident arc flash occurred.

The worker received burns to the left arm and right hand, and was admitted to hospital for further treatment.

An early investigation into the incident from Resources Safety and Healthy Queensland (RSHQ) suggests that high voltage isolation and access procedures may not have been followed. The regulator also suggested that testing prior to accessing the high voltage enclosures may not have been adhered to.

What is an arc flash?

There are many risks associated with working around electricity, but none make such a terrible impression as an arc flash, a phenomenon where a flashover of electric current causes an explosion of energy.

Arc flash temperatures can reach thousands of degrees Celsius, with a significant range of effect. Owing to the sudden release of high heat – likened to a bomb – they can also be fatal to workers.

In the wake of the latest incident, RSHQ recommended that all electrical workers should:

  • ensure they and their workgroup understand and comply with the standard work instructions/procedures
  • ensure they and their workgroup identify all access isolation requirements
  • conduct hazard identification and risk management before starting a task
  • if unsure of isolation requirements for access to electrical conductors, stop work until confirmation of requirements is determined.

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