Extreme arc flash blast hospitalises worker 06 June 2019

Thirty-year-old Eddie Smith, a father of one, was working on site in his role as team leader for construction firm Clancy Docwra when the jackhammer he was using to break ground hit a high voltage cable.

Despite completing all safety checks, contact with the voltage cable caused an arc flash (an intense burst of energy). Smith suffered burns to his hands, neck, mouth and nose, but he managed to avoid life changing injuries thanks to the clothing he was wearing, as his employer had invested in arc flash PPE from ProGARM.

Speaking of the incident, Smith says: “It was just a normal day, I drove into work and spoke to my supervisor about the day’s work ahead – we’d received a brief about an important job close to a railway line. Once fully briefed, I arrived on site, unloaded and completed the usual safety checks Clancy Docwra insist upon before we can begin work. The team and I then started to break away some tarmac with a breaker.

“As is often the case, the ground underneath the tarmac was very hard, meaning we weren’t able to use shovels or grafters to break the ground. So, I took the decision to break through the hard ground using a jackhammer. Unfortunately, as I was doing that, the jackhammer threw straight into the ground and hit a cable.

“As soon as the jackhammer hit the cable, an arc flash occurred. It all happened very quickly, it was a complete shock. I remember experiencing a lot of pain and awful thoughts running through my head. The main one was obviously about my little boy, but also my family, my job and my physical injuries.

“I never thought something like this would ever happen to me – I felt confident and that I had completed all safety checks so I was risk free. But, whilst prevention is the best form of protection, you can never be truly 100% protected. That’s why it’s vital to wear PPE. That equipment saved my life. It saved my little boy, friends and family from the loss of a loved one.”

Since the incident, Smith has made a full recovery and is now back to work. Eager to ensure others are made aware of the importance of wearing quality PPE, he has teamed up with his employer Clancy Docwra and ProGARM, to promote safe practices for those at risk of such an incident.

Together, Smith, ProGARM and Clancy Docwra have created an educational video showcasing the importance of wearing PPE and ProGARM is offering employers free consultations to offer advice to businesses looking to increase their employee protection against such risks.

Steve Bainbridge, field performance manager at Clancy Docwra, says: “We all go to work and we expect to go home, and Eddie nearly never went home. I’ve seen the clothing that he was wearing on that day, and it’s truly shocking. It really drove home the importance of PPE. This isn’t about money, it’s not how many jobs you do in the day, it’s how you do that job and how you do that job safely, but most of all, you must wear this PPE. If you don’t, you could die.”

To watch the full educational interview with Smith and his colleagues, click here.

Adam Offord

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