Arc Bites: Learning from Adversity – Navigating the Aftermath of an Arc Flash Incident

In the realm of workplace safety, the aftermath of an arc flash incident can be a pivotal moment for both individuals and organizations. Drawing insights from firsthand accounts shared by arc flash survivors and safety professionals during Arc Week Season 4, we explore the profound impact, challenges, and lessons learned from such a traumatic event.

Join us for a round table discussion as we explore the journey from training and initial response to the emotional and psychological aspects of recovery. Each element contributes to a holistic approach prioritizing safety, prevention, and continuous improvement in the workplace:


The following five elements collectively form a comprehensive guide to navigating the aftermath of an arc flash incident:

1. The Training That Kicked In

“In the middle of a paper mill, where do you land two helicopters? There are things that we don’t talk about in JSAs [Job Safety Analysis], and our Safety Toolbox Talks because you’re not expecting something of that magnitude to happen. And now, all of a sudden, we're in the middle of it. And the training kicked in,” William Watson, Vice President of Safety at Miller Electric and Chairman of the NECA Large Contractor Safety Group, said during the round table discussion in the Arc Week Season 4 finale.

In the chaos of an unexpected event, training becomes the bedrock on which professionals rely. The ability to respond swiftly and effectively, even in uncharted territory, underscores the importance of thorough safety training.

2. Assigning Blame vs. Preventing Future Incidents

“And again, the reason we’re doing that [starting the investigation] is not to assign blame. It's for prevention of future incidents,” William continues, as he recalls the initial response to the arc flash incident.

The shift in focus from blame to prevention is a crucial mindset for safety professionals. The goal is not to point fingers but to analyze, understand, and implement measures to avert similar incidents in the future.

3. Personal Reflection on Accountability

“I made a poor decision, and everyone else around me had to pay for it. And that's what bothered me the most,” says Brandon Schroeder while reflecting on his personal experience in surviving an arc flash incident.

Acknowledging personal responsibility is a decisive step towards a safety-conscious culture. Understanding the impact of individual actions on the collective well-being reinforces the need for accountability.

4. The Human Impact on Morale

“Morale took a dive, and the sad part about it was having to go back in there and remind people that we still have a job to do; we have to finish. And nobody wanted to, least of all me,” William shares regarding coworkers’ distress in the aftermath of an arc flash incident.

The emotional toll on a team after a severe incident is profound. Navigating the balance between empathy and the need to resume operations highlights the delicate nature of post-incident management. When someone has been directly affected by a traumatic event, like an arc flash incident, revisiting and reconstructing the details can be emotionally taxing for that individual. The emotional and psychological impact of the incident may affect their ability to recall specific details with clarity. Conducting a thorough investigation under such circumstances requires sensitivity and an understanding of the mental and emotional state of the individuals involved.

5. A Company Culture Built on Safety

“When you work for a company like that (one that conducts a thorough investigation), as an employee, and I hear that, that’s a company I want to work for… That's a team I want to be a part of,” Brandon relates, acknowledging his respect for organizations that place a high value on their employees’ safety.  

A positive takeaway from adversity is the reinforcement of the importance of a safety-oriented company culture. Individuals seek employment in organizations prioritizing safety, fostering a sense of belonging and commitment.

The aftermath of an arc flash incident is a complex terrain where emotions, training, and organizational culture intersect. By learning from personal experiences and emphasizing prevention, accountability, and empathy, workplaces can evolve into environments where safety is not just a policy but a shared responsibility woven into the fabric of the organization.

Do you have a flash fire – rather than an arc flash – hazard?
The hazards may differ, but the valuable lessons in this series are relevant to workers in oil and gas and other industries that use PPE to protect workers from thermal hazards. Don’t miss it!


Series: Arc Bites

Arc Bites condenses in-depth dicussions into short, focused episodes no more than two minutes long and provides concise, insightful content, offering practical takeaways on Arc Flash safety in easily disgestible bites.

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