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Electrical work requires an ability to stay calm under pressure, but concerns about arc flash safety issues can make even the most level headed worker nervous. One way to help your employees maintain a steady hand is to provide the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Arc flash gear will ensure workers are protected from head to toe and help them stay focused so they can get the job done without undue concerns about safety.
Arc flash is an unexpected electric discharge traveling through the air between two conductors or from a conductor into the ground. Arc flash explosions cause fires that harm people and equipment. Temperatures may exceed 30,000 degrees F, vaporizing metal and propelling plasma and molten metal in all directions. In general electrical systems must run at 480 volts-plus to create an arc flash. The risk grows the higher the voltage.
The proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and good safety procedures and training can protect against arc flash. But first, the flash protection boundary (FPB) needs to be determined, so that you will know what level of protection is needed from the protective gear. For instance, with incidents involving available short-circuit current of 10,000 amps or less, FPB could be only a few inches. Correct PPE should include voltage-rated gloves and protectors, goggles or safety glasses, flame-resistant clothing, and safety shoes. If the short-circuit current is higher, the FPB increases. The PPE should match the level of the hazard.
National Fire Protection Association 70E, a standard for electrical safety in the workplace, calls for five hazard/risk categories for protective clothing and PPE. A simplified two-category arc-rated method is allowed, and is used by most employers. Category 2-level risks might allow daily work clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt and pants/coveralls arc rated at a lower level, while for greater Category 4-level hazards, arc flash suits would be required. For hazards greater than Category 4, different work methods must be employed that lower arc rating, since PPE can’t provide proper protection.
The PPE should have an arc rating that equals or is more than any calculated incident energy.
The Occupational and Safety Hazards Act (OSHA) publishes some guidelines for PPE in a variety of work situations. Following are some of the basic requirements for electrical workers, as determined by OSHA and NFPA 70E.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that workers are trained in the use, care, and maintenance of PPE. One of the best ways to ensure your employees understand the proper use and care of PPE is to enroll in a seminar that teaches safe working conditions, and explains how maintenance affects equipment and reduces injury.
If you’re interested in arc flash safety equipment, enroll in the Arc Flash Electrical Safety With Hands-on Practical Skills Training seminar with NTT Training can help you and your employees navigate the world of PPE. Contact us today to set up a seminar for you.
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