What an Electric Arc Flash Does to a Hard Hat
Industrial accidents can be flatly horrifying. Electric arc flashes are some of the worst.
Even relatively small plants and factories require tremendous amounts of electricity to maintain production. This, in turn, necessitates large, complex equipment that can safely disburse thousands of volts from a substation to individual machines. Literally hundreds of pages of safety regulations have been written, and are constantly revised, to protect the safety of the men and women who work in close proximity to this equipment because when accidents happen with electricity, the results can be very, very bad.
Below is a picture of two hard hats taken from the scene of a catastrophic electrical arc flash accident. One hard hat was worn by a worker standing several feet away from the arc flash. The other, shriveled mess of plastic was all that remained of the hard hat of the worker who was mere inches away.
Electric arc flashes last for mere milliseconds–far less than the time it takes to blink an eye. Their lethality stems from the tremendous heat generated by the electricity. A single arc flash can reach temperatures of 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit–three and one-half times the heat of the surface of the sun. This sudden blast of heat is enough to vaporize steel, plastic, and human flesh.
Workers who survive these types of accidents generally do so with third degree burns across large portions of their bodies. They face years of excruciating burn treatment and a lifetime of terrible scarring and disability. Medical bills alone can easily exceed one million dollars in a matter of months.
Seeking compensation for workers killed or maimed by arc flash explosions is a difficult task. Employers who may have failed to observe safety protocols are generally protected from liability by state workers’ compensation laws. These laws may enable a worker to have his medical bills satisfied and receive a small amount of compensation for disability, but workers’ compensation usually does not provide any recovery for the truly awful pain and suffering and loss of quality of life incurred by victims of electrical burns.
Achieving compensation for these individuals requires an extensive, multi-faceted legal approach that touches upon not only workers’ compensation laws, but also tort law, product liability, agency, and even appellate practice. As a result, very few law firms are equipped to handle such a responsibility. But without such a sweeping approach to the legal rights of the victims of a major industrial accident, achieving anything close to reasonable compensation for these terribly injured individuals is a near impossibility.