Arc Flash Statistics

The surprising costs of an arc flash.

As much as 80% of all electrical injuries are burns resulting from an arc-flash and ignition of flammable clothing. Fatal burns can occur at lengthy distances. According to…

  • NFPA & IEEE from 1992 to 2002, over 2,000 workers a year or more than 5 workers a day were victims of an arc flash.
  • Electricite de France, 21% of electrical injuries (including arc flash) tended to be permanent.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrocution is the fifth leading cause of work place fatalities in the US. Arc flash is not included in this statistic.
  • Electrical Safety Foundation International, every 30 minutes during the work day, a worker suffers an electrically induced injury that requires time off the job for recovery. Over the last ten years, more than 46,000 workers have been injured from on-the-job electrical hazards.
  • OSHA, 80% of electrically related accidents and fatalities involving “Qualified Workers” are caused by arc flash / arc blast. Between 2007 and 2011, more than 2,880 fines were assessed for not meeting OSHA regulation 1910.132(d) which averages out to 1.5 fines a day.


According to a study by Mission Critical, the average electrical accident costs $750k. The National Safety Council estimates work-related injuries can cost businesses well over $30M in fines, medical costs, litigation, lost business and equipment costs.

On the other hand, an OSHA inspection may actually help uncover issues. A May 2012 study surveyed over 800 California companies where all were eligible for inspection but only half had been. The companies receiving an inspection saw a decline of 9.4% in injuries and the average company saved $350,000 over the five years after the OSHA visit. So while OSHA requires companies to operate in a safer manner, it’s best not to wait for an inspection much less a fine.


Downtime Costs Estimates
Industry Average Downtime Costs, per hour
Forest Products $7,000
Food Processing $30,000
Petroleum / Chemical $87,000
Metal Casting $100,000
Automotive $200,000
*Industrial Productivity Training Manual, 1996 Annual IAC Directors’ Meeting Rutgers University, US Department of Energy Office of Industrial Technologies, 1996

OSHA Fines
Common violations can be divided into four types – Willful, Repeat, Serious and Other than Serious. Each violation carries its own penalty and the size of the business, gravity of the offense, the good faith of the employer and history are all considered when the fine is determined. Here are the penalty’s ranges in dollars:

  • Willful or Repeat: $5,000 – $70,000 for each violation
  • Serious or Other than Serious: up to $7,000 for each violation

Less frequent penalties include:
  • Failure to comply after a citation has been issued: $7,000 per day
  • Willful, resulting in the death of a worker: 1st Conviction – not more than $10,000, not more than 6 months in jail, or both; 2nd Conviction – not more than $20,000, not more than one year in jail, or both
  • Warning the employer of an upcoming inspection: not more than $1,000, not more than 6 months in jail, or both
  • Knowingly make false statements: not more than $10,000, not more than 6 months in jail, or both
  • Violate any posting requirements: up to $7,000

According to the National Safety Council, medical costs for severe electrical burns can exceed $4M per person.

Lost productivity
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded more than 2,500 non-fatal electrical shocks and burns in 2007 and a worker who suffered electrical burns in 2009 required an average of 27 days to recuperate.

Indirect Costs
The Wisconsin Safety Council estimates for every $1 spent on training, $3 are saved on injury costs. The Workers Compensation Fund estimated for every $1 in direct cost, there are $3 in indirect costs (this is basically the iceberg effect where most of the danger is underwater).