• Home
  • Archive by category "Arc Flash PPE"

PPE for Electrical Safety

6 min read

When it comes to electrical safety, it is important to take a multi-pronged approach to minimize the risk to people in the area. Personal protection equipment, or PPE, for electrical safety may be seen as the last line of defense, but it is still one of the most important things you can do. Having the right PPE will make it much safer for anyone who works with or around high voltage equipment.

Learning about what types of PPE should be available, when it should be worn, and other details about this subject, will help you to make the right choices when creating an electrical safety plan. While you can’t ignore things like maintaining your equipment, physically preventing access to electrical circuits, and other safety steps, a good PPE plan of action will go a long way toward keeping your employees protected.

Why Electrical Safety is So Important

Anyone who has spent any time trying to improve the safety of a facility knows that electrical safety gets more attention than just about anything else. Even though there are other more common hazards out there, electricity is often seen as the priority for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Extremely Deadly – Exposure to an electrical current can cause serious burns and death very quickly. Electricity can also kill you in multiple different ways. While electricity is an essential part of modern life, it is extremely dangerous and needs to be treated with care.
  • Impossible to Predict – It is typically impossible to predict when and where an electrical accident will occur. Since nobody knows if or when an electrical shock will occur, it is a good idea to wear PPE anytime someone is working around electrical equipment.
  • Happens in an Instant – Another thing about electrical hazards that make them so dangerous is that they happen in an instant. There is no way for someone to get out of the way or take precautions once it starts. The only way that someone can protect themselves is by putting on the PPE prior to ending an area with high voltage equipment.
  • Can Cause Other Hazards – While the main worry with electrical hazards is the electrocution, it can cause other dangers as well. For example, if an arc flash occurs it can cause a fire in the area. It can also cause an explosion that can blast debris in all directions.

So, while it is not accurate to say that electrical safety is the most important focus for every facility, it is clear that it should be a priority.

Improve Electrical Safety in the Workplace

There are many things that you can do to help improve electrical safety in the workplace. Making a comprehensive plan on how to respond to various hazards will help you to reduce the risk of an electrical event from occurring in the first place. This is by far the best course of action that you can take to help keep your facility as safe as possible.

Once you have taken all the necessary safety steps to keep your facility safe from electrical problems, you will want to create a plan for personal protection equipment. The following are key things to keep in mind.

Make PPE Readily Available

Employers must provide employees, contractors, visitors, and anyone else in the area with personal protection equipment if they are entering an area where a hazard may be. Purchasing the right type of PPE for a given situation is critical.

You will also want to make the PPE that you purchased readily available in the areas where it will be worn. For example, if you have a high voltage equipment area, you should put the personal protection equipment just outside of that area so that people will be able to access it immediately prior to entering the dangerous area.

Put Up Reminder Signs & Labels

Using safety signs and labels will also help to remind your employees that they need to wear the PPE in specific areas. You can print off custom labels and place them on the doors that go into high voltage areas, for example.

Anywhere that requires PPE should have a safety sign or label put up to help remind people not to enter the area without first putting on their PPE. This is a simple and affordable way to make sure people do not forget this essential type of equipment.

Set Policy Requiring Use of PPE

Finally, the best thing you can do is create a policy for your entire facility regarding the use of PPE for electrical safety. Make it clear that if someone does not wear the proper PPE in the areas where it is needed, they will face disciplinary action that could include losing their job.

This will help to illustrate the importance of this type of safety equipment. It will also make it something people are less likely to overlook. While this may seem like an over reaction to some, the fact is that this type of policy can save lives, which is the most important thing.

Types of Personal Protection Equipment for Electrical Safety

There are a number of different pieces of personal protection equipment that can used to help improve electrical safety. In addition, each piece of PPE can come in multiple different levels. Choosing the right equipment is critical for providing the needed protection for everyone in your facility.

When looking at the different categories, you will want to look into arc flash PPE. Arc flashes are the most dangerous type of electrical hazard, so having PPE designed to protect people from them is critical. The various categories for arc flash protection are as follows.

Category 1 Arc Flash Protection

This is the lowest level of protection. At this level an employee will typically wear a hard hat, safety goggles, a face shield, hearing protection, a long-sleeved shirt (rated for arc flashes), leather gloves, leather footwear, and pants that are rated for arc flash protection.

Each piece of this gear should have an arc-rating of 4 cal/cm squared. This will provide sufficient protection from most basic types of arc flashes. Anyone working with electrical equipment should at least start with this type of protective equipment.

Category 2 Arc Flash Protection

At category 2 the level of protection needs to be increased to at least 8 cal/cm squared. In addition, an arc-rated jacket should be worn for an added layer of protection. This is on top of the long-sleeved shirt. Instead of a simple face mask, the person should be wearing a balaclava that is rated for arc flash protection.

This change in gear and protection level will make it safer for areas that are either higher voltage or have a higher risk of shocks occurring. At this level there is very little exposed skin so the risk of an electrical shock is dramatically reduced.

Category 3 Arc Flash Protection

At category three the level of protection is increased significantly to a minimum of 25 cal/cm squared. In addition, this category includes an arc-rated flash suit that will include a hood. This provides complete coverage to the person who is working with high voltage equipment. The arc-rated jacket and hood will be in addition to all the other items identified in the previous categories.

Category 4 Arc Flash Protection

Category 4 is the highest category and requires at least 40 cal/cm squared of protection. The only difference between category 3 and category 4 is the level of protection. People working with electrical equipment will need the same items available to ware.

Providing Training on PPE for Electrical Safety

Unlike many types of personal protection equipment, the items used for electrical safety are not always as obvious for when they are needed. This is why providing your employees with the proper training on when each type of PPE is needed, and how to use it properly is so important.

You can create your own training classes based on the type of equipment and the type of PPE that you have in your facility. Making sure that everyone who works with or around electrical equipment gets the training they need will help to keep them safe.

Even people who do not directly work on electrical equipment should know when PPE is necessary. For example, if someone performs a job that is near an electrical panel, it may be a good idea for them to have category 1 personal protection equipment.

Keeping Everyone Safe

Safety should always be a top priority in any facility. Having a good plan of action in place for electrical safety and the usage of personal protection equipment is essential. Fortunately, once you have a good plan in place and you have all the PPE that is needed, you shouldn’t need to make changes very often. Simply providing new employees with the training and refreshing existing employees on a regular basis will keep everyone up to date with this area of safety in your facility.

While this may take some work up front, it has been repeatedly shown that a safe workplace operates more efficiently and is able to remain more profitable over the long term.

Understanding Arc Flash PPE Categories

3 min read

An arc flash is one of the most dangerous events that can occur in the workplace. It occurs when electricity has a path of reduced resistance outside of the cables or systems where it is intended to be to another location. The electricity ‘jumps’ from the wiring to another object through the air. This generates a massive amount of heat and can also cause serious damage or injury to anything in its path. Arc flashes are often accompanied by explosions due to the high amount of energy that is being released.

In most situations it is not possible to predict when an arc flash is going to occur since it is not an intended result of a normally operating system. For this reason, anywhere that has high voltage systems in operation should be considered high risk for an arc flash. While these areas should generally be avoided by workers, sometimes it is necessary that they enter them. When this is the case, those entering the area need to be using the proper personal protection equipment (PPE).

Types of PPE for Arc Flash Protection

There are many different types of personal protection equipment that can be used in the workplace. Choosing the right types of PPE to provide protection against an arc flash is very important. The specific things that are necessary will depend on a number of factors including how high the voltage in the area is, the risk of an arc flash, and more. The following are some of the types of PPE to consider:

  • Face Protection – A face shield that is rated for arc flash protection will help to avoid burns as well as injury from flying debris.
  • Head Protection – A safety helmet or other type of head protection is critical for avoiding injury from the flying debris. This piece should also help ensure the electricity is not able to travel through the helmet into the person wearing it.
  • Hearing Protection – Arc flashes can be extremely loud. The fact that they occur suddenly makes the risk to hearing even more pronounced. Wearing strong hearing protection is essential in any area where an arc flash could occur.
  • PPE Clothing – The pants, shirt, and other clothing being worn should be rated for arc flash protection. If it not, the person entering the area should put on protective clothing over their other clothes or change into something that will keep them safe.
  • Eye Protection – If a situation does not need full face protection, wearing eye protection is still a good idea. Eyes can be especially vulnerable to electricity and flying debris can cause serious damage.

In high risk areas it is recommended to wear a fully body protection suit. This will provide as much protection as possible to anyone who is entering an area where an arc flash can occur.

Arc Flash PPE Categories

It is not enough to just look at the types of personal protection equipment and choose the items that are needed in a given situation. Each piece of PPE also must meet the needed protection levels based on the risks associated with an area. PPE that is used for arc flash hazards are broken down into four categories based on the level of protection that it provides. The four PPE categories are:

  • Category 1 – Equipment that has a minimum arc-rating of 4 cal/cm2
  • Category 2 – Equipment that has a minimum arc-rating of 8 cal/cm2
  • Category 3 – Equipment that has a minimum arc-rating of 25 cal/cm2
  • Category 4 – Equipment that has a minimum arc-rating of 40 cal/cm2

The higher the category, the greater the protection that it is able to provide. In most cases, this means that the material used in the PPE will be thicker so that it provides additional levels of protection. Along with the higher category level, additional types of protection are needed as the hazard level increases. For example, when using category 1 PPE there is generally no need to wear a protective hood that covers the neck and back of the head. When moving into category 3 and above, it is typically necessary to have the whole body covered because of the higher level of danger.

Personal Protection Equipment is a Last Line of Defense

Whenever discussing workplace safety, and especially safety with regards to arc flashes, it is important to remember that PPE is a last line of defense. In an ideal world, the PPE would never actually need to be used because the other steps used for workplace safety would be effective. For example, if someone needs to enter an area where there is high voltage equipment, the first option should always be to turn off the electricity at the source and use a lockout tag-out procedure to ensure there is no risk of electrocution.

In many situations, however, the other steps associated with increasing the safety of an area are either not possible, or not entirely effective. Having the right personal protection equipment will help to minimize the danger should all else fail.

What is Arc Flash PPE?

2 min read

arc flash PPEArc flashes are one of the most dangerous electrical hazards in the workplace. The damage to human health can be severe and permanent, from hearing loss to skin burns, and the sudden occurrence of an arc flash may even result in death. Employers will need to assess their facility for arc flash hazards and implement safety measures accordingly.

In addition to engineering and administrative controls, it is important to keep workers safe with personal protective equipment (PPE). Although PPE is considered the last line of defense, arc flashes occur unexpectedly and the consequences of a worker lacking PPE can be serious. When it comes to stocking your workplace with arc flash PPE, you will want to conduct an arc flash hazard analysis to get the right information (such as arc rating) for choosing garments and personal equipment. It should be noted that OSHA requires employers to provide PPE at no charge to employees.

When it comes to arc flash, the PPE used is based on the arc flash rating. Arc flash ratings constitute PPE categories, with Category 1 being the least harmful and Category 4 posing the highest risk and requires the most protective gear. Whatever the PPE category is, arc flash PPE will always include the following:

  • Eye Protection: Arc flashes produce extremely bright flashes that can cause permanent damage to a worker’s sight or eyes. Therefore, eye protection is essential. Safety goggles are used for the first and second category, while safety goggles are required for Category 3 and 4.
  • Hearing Protection: The sound of an arc flash explosion can be deafening with the potential to exceed 160 dB (for reference, a jet plane take off registers at 120 dB). Ear plugs are required by NFPA to be worn in all arc flash zones.
  • Shirts/Pants: Any exposed skin must be covered. The heat and light emitted by an arc flash can destroy and skin and tissue. It can be extremely painful and may cause long-term chronic pain and scarring. No matter the category of PPE, all garments must be arc-rated, and arc-rated shirts and pants are required for all four categories. However, Category 2 calls for an arc-rated jacket, and both Category 3 and 4 include arc-rated suit jackets and pants.
  • Foot/Hand Protection: Leather footwear (typically boots) is the standard for arc flash protection because of their nonconductive properties. The same goes for safety gloves, as leather gloves are used. When reaching the more dangerous levels however, arc-rated gloves are required.
  • Head Protection: Head protection is used in addition to hearing and eye protection. Depending on the category, approved and required protection includes hard hats and arc-rated flash suit hoods.
  • Face Protection: Included in exposed skin that must be covered is the face. If an arc-rated flash hood or other protection does not already include face protection, workers are required to wear an arc-rated face shield or an arc-rated balaclava.