A father of one is lucky to be alive after surviving an extreme Arc Flash blast that happened while he was at work. Eddie Smith, 30, 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 meticulously completing all safety checks, contact with the voltage cable caused an Arc Flash - an intense burst of energy that is more than four times hotter than the surface of the sun, louder than a gunshot, and can burn an operative’s skin within fractions of a second.
Although Eddie suffered burns to his hands, neck, mouth and nose, he managed to avoid life changing injuries thanks to the clothing he was wearing, as his employer had carefully invested in specially-designed ProGARM Arc Flash protective clothing (PPE).
Now Eddie and the Clancy Docwra team have teamed up with ProGARM, a leading specialist in Arc Flash protection, to help raise awareness of the life changing and often fatal impact an Arc Flash incident can have on those breaking ground and working with electricity.
Speaking of the incident, Eddie said: “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. Myself and the team 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 had burns all over my hands, down my neck, inside my nose, inside my mouth, and around my face, but because I was wearing my PPE, it didn’t touch my chest, legs or arms, so my body as a whole was completely fine.
“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. If I hadn’t had been wearing ProGARM PPE that day, it would have been a very different story. That equipment saved my life. It saved my little boy, friends and family from the loss of a loved one.”
Eddie’s team were quickly informed of his accident, and that he had been taken to hospital. His colleague Steve Bainbridge, Field Performance Manager, explained: “We got a telephone call from a supervisor to say that Eddie had had a cable strike, and it was quite bad. As a team we were all shocked and deeply concerned by the news – it still shocks me to this day.
“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.”
Since the incident Eddie 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, Eddie has teamed up with his employer Clancy Docwra and ProGARM, the PPE supplier that helped to protect him when he was hit by the Arc Flash, to promote safe practices for those at risk of such an incident.
Together, Eddie, 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.
To watch the full educational interview with Eddie and his colleagues, visit https://www.progarm.com/news/eddies-story/