The next time you need to update your arc flash and electrical safety training you might want to consider doing a little research before you book the session. The reason I’m saying this is that all arc flash training is not created equal, but a common mistake people are making in the marketplace is that they think it is.
What makes a good arc flash training course?
Now I’m cheating a little bit because arc flash is the big scary word that most people know but really we need to be talking about electrical safety training (shock and arc flash).
But what is it that makes one course standout from the next? In my opinion, the biggest differentiator is the target audience... and in most cases, if the course designer even thought about the target audience.
When it comes to teaching technical information or the clauses of standards and regulations most people get lost in the weeds and never get out. They forget that on the other end of that training course there is a learner who has specific motivations for being in the class. Quite often those motivations are not to understand the technicalities of arc flash or the legal implications of standards and regulations. Far from it...
A good arc flash (or should I say electrical safety) training course is one that was built with the learner in mind... most often an electrician, millwright, instrumentation tech, or operator.
How do I know the difference?
The first thing I would look into is where the training facilitators core competencies are. If they are sporting a long list of technical achievements (while this may seem impressive) it makes me wonder how good of a teacher they might be. If the company or association you're looking into seems to be more focused on learning then I’d start to feel a bit more comfortable.
Another thing to watch out for is secondary sales training. I’ve seen countless manufacturers, engineers, and apparel companies provide arc flash training as a way to sell more products. Now from a business perspective, I think it’s a fantastic idea, but from an ethical perspective, I just can’t stand behind it. How much do you really think that these training sessions have been designed with the end users experience in mind?... probably zero.
So what does my course need to cover?
I guess we should probably talk about what the course actually needs to provide... I suppose that would be helpful.
First off, an introduction to the hazards (shock and arc flash). What’s important is going over how they can happen, what the consequences might be (both short and long-term), what jobs expose us to these hazards, and what are the risks involved with working around these hazards.
Secondly, you’ll need a brief section on the standards and regulations written around these hazards. People need to be aware of what type of information is available in the standards and what their particular responsibilities are with regards to electrical hazards. Make sure that this section is short and to the point, there are only a handful of things the end user really needs to know about the standards and regulations.
The third thing you need to cover is the bread and butter policies, procedures and guidelines set forth in the standards. I’d say the most important concepts are:
- risk assessment;
- job planning (with job briefings) ;
- energized work;
- establishing an electrically safe work condition;
- PPE, tools & equipment selection, usage, and care & maintenance; and
- emergency planning techniques
And finally, you should bring it all together. Now that you have a good understanding of the hazards, what your responsibilities are, and what you need to do about it, you can go over case studies of electrical incidents in the workplace. This is a great way to soak in everything you’ve learned in the course and also think about ways to make your everyday job safer.
I hope that everybody has a better idea of what an arc flash training (or electrical safety training) course should look like, what types of trainers or companies are the best to look out for, and what the overall goal of the session should be.