by , on August 29, 2018
arc flash certification

Sorry, you can’t. There is no such thing as arc flash certification.

We sometimes get questions from  electrical contractors who have been told that their company must be arc-flash certified. I have to explain to the contractors that there is really no such thing as “certification” for a company in arc flash. Yet the companies hiring contractors continue to ask for these “certifications” as requirements to bid for potential jobs.

If you are asked for this, try to understand what that company is looking for. You may have to educate the company on the need for appropriate electrical safety training well beyond arc flash hazards.

Do you mean to say that you need training in electrical safety compliance?

My guess is that your company needs to prove compliance with electrical safety standards. If this is the case, your company must provide training on how to safely work around electrical equipment in order for employees to safely complete electrical tasks.

Do you have employees who operate circuit breakers or electrical safety disconnects? 

Do you have employees who troubleshoot electrical failures while exposed to voltages above 50 volts?

Does anyone troubleshoot in an area that poses an arc flash hazard at any voltage?

Do your operators rack 480V breakers?

Do your Information Technology (IT) personnel use multi-meters to measure supply voltages to IT racks, server equipment, and the like?

These individuals must be electrically qualified to perform certain functions.

Here’s What “Certified” Means

Certified – This term means one of the following (per Dictionary.com)

a. having or proved by a certificate,
b. guaranteed; reliably endorsed
c. legally declared insane

Assuming you do not want your electrical workers declared legally insane, we will stick with the first two definitions.

Certification, then, means “the action or process of providing someone or something with an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement”. That’s all certification is – a piece of paper, usually in an employee’s file, stating that he or she has gained skills necessary to complete a task.

“Arc flash certification,” if there was such a term, would imply a worker has achieved a level of work proficiency that allows that employee to work in an area where a possible arc flash could occur. That leads right back to safety training.

Then the question arises…

“Who can certify my electrical workers and electricians?”

The answer to that is interesting. Any training organization can issue a certificate of completion, a certificate of attendance, or a certificate proving hands-on demonstration of specific skills. These certificates are only as good as the organization issuing the certificates.

The organizations apply for and are granted Continuing Educational Accreditation by an agency. The certificates earned after training can then be turned in by the individual students in their respective states as proof that they have earned the required Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

Other options for certification could be in certain tasks. For instance, an electrician might become certified as a medium voltage cable splicer from a manufacturer of a particular cable splicing method. Certain training organizations may also “certify” someone in fiber optic fusion splicing, or 480-volt cable termination on a specialty cable for a nuclear power plant.

These are all great certifications to have. But keep in mind that the required skill sets are often gained after months or even years of training.

Certification and Qualification

Certifying electrical workers on your job site, however, is actually more a question of qualification. The employer must qualify employees for any and all electrically-related tasks, even to the point of operating electrical switches, circuit breakers, disconnects, etc.

You can read this blog,  Am I a Qualified Electrical Worker?  for more information on that topic.

Certificates are good to have, and we give out completion/participation certificates for our courses. Other organizations do the same thing. However, none of this matters in OSHA’s eyes if the employee cannot demonstrate this knowledge in a practical, job-specific application.

Safety Training

Based on the assessed electrical hazards at the your work site, safety training on shock, arc flash, arc blast, and other electrical hazards helps prevent any possible injuries or fatalities that could happen. The training qualifies workers to work on or near electrical equipment and shows workers how to mitigate those hazards, or at a minimum, reduce the risks associated with electrical hazards.

e-Hazard’s electrical safety training can certainly be a part of  this qualification process because it is logically and thoroughly prepared. We go over all applicable OSHA requirements, cover areas of NFPA 70E® in-depth, and teach industry best practices. The best practices may exceed codes and regulations. But they provide employees with the best and most sensible protection available from burns, shocks, falls, etc. Training is a great addition to a qualification process, but again, it does not “certify” or “qualify” an individual.

NOTE: Safety training on shock and arc flash does NOT qualify a worker to be an electrician.  There are differences between an electrician and a qualified worker or qualified employee.

You  may want to check out our blog, The Importance of Training Task Qualified Operators: Training Non-electrical Workers.

Also read Training, part of the e-Hazard Electrical Safety Cycle™.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact us here at e-hazard.

Other Electrical Safety Terms

Also on the e-Hazard blog: So Many Electrical Terms – What Do They Mean? 


Ken Sellars
About author:
Ken Sellars is an instructor of electrical safety, NEC, Grounding/Bonding and Arc Flash Safety courses nationwide. Read more about Ken.

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