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Personal Protective Equipment or PPE are clothing or equipment used by employees, contractors, visitors or students to shield or protect their bodies from hazards, such as arc flash. PPE includes all clothing and work accessories that create a barrier against common workplace hazards. Using PPE also require training and awareness on the part of the user. According to the OSHA Act (Occupational Safety and Health Act) of 1970, where it is not practicable to avoid workplace hazards, employers should provide employees with adequate personal protective clothing to protect them from those hazards, without any cost to the employees.
When it comes to industrial electricity safety, most workers dive right into work without wearing the proper PPE. Electrical hazards are real and lack of proper PPE can be a real threat. Personal protective equipment is important because:
Most of us often take electricity hazards lightly due to ignorance and safety complacency. After working for some time, it’s easy for an employee to let their guard down which often causes problems. Regardless of the reason, some of the common causes of injuries due to electrical hazards include: contact of electrical components that result in shock and burns, electricity as a source of fires and explosions, or electrical faults that result to arc flash and fires.
Because the body of a human being is a good conductor of electricity, electrical shock can be severe. The flow of electric current can generate heat that can cause burns and tissue damage. Arc flashes that result from short circuits can cause explosions. Water, which is also found in almost every facility, is also an excellent conductor of electricity and can transmit electricity easily.
It is important to control hazardous energy right at the source. However, even after electricity is locked out, the chances of exposure to hazards are not eliminated completely especially after factoring in human error. As your last line of defense, PPE is very important and necessary for electrical safety. There are many times when employees have been saved and injuries minimized by using the proper PPE.
Particles of fluids can sometimes be dangerous to the health of your workers when inhaled. Your employees may also be at a risk for contact with toxic fumes from welding. NIOSH estimates that over one million employees are exposed to such fluids during machining processes or direct contact with fluid-covered parts, tools, and other equipment. Some of the respiration conditions include HP (hypersensitivity pneumonitis), asthma and impaired lung function. According to NIOSH, work-related asthma is among the most prevalent occupational disorders and it has led to significant healthcare costs and workers compensation.
Protecting your employees should be your first priority. When your employees are working on energized electrical equipment, arc flash incidents can occur with life-changing and fatal repercussions. Therefore, it’s important that proper safety precautions are laid out in detail and followed at all times. Additionally, employees should be protected using proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
PPE should be based on the equipment arc flash rating, which determines the arc flash PPE category. All PPE categories have some form of eye and face protection, gloves, hearing protection and arc-rated clothing. Either gloves can be rubber or leather insulated gloves depending on the voltage. In case rubber gloves are required, leather protectors can be worn over them. However, they need to be rated and include the maximum voltage that an employee can be exposed to when working on the equipment. PPE come in six classes, from 00 to 4, and classes have different colors. As the number of classes increase, the gloves are designed to protect against high voltages and become bulkier.
Arc-rated clothing often depends on the arc-flash PPE class which is determined during an arc flash assessment. While all arc-rated clothing are fire resistant, not all fire-resistant clothing are arc-rated. Ensure that your employees only use arc-rated clothing.
Beyond providing arc-rated PPE, it’s important that you also provide your employees with training on how to use and care for their PPE. The training should include some of the dangers of wearing conductive clothing, jewelry, and electronics. This is important to ensure that employees understand what should not be worn while working on energized equipment. Knowing which clothes not to wear is also crucial because most synthetic fibers can melt and cause second or third-degree burns.
Arc flashes are dangerous electrical hazards and that’s why OSHA emphasizes that employers must provide electrical safety training to employees exposed to electrical hazards. Protect your employees by signing up for the NTT Training Inc. NFPA 70E employee arc flash PPE training today.
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