OSHA regulations state that you need to eliminate potential threats to employee safety when you can. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. In these situations, personal protective equipment or PPE is essential to ensuring workplace safety. The use of PPE often requires training for workers to do so effectively and this training can be challenging to perform properly.
You have three primary methods of securing your workplace and minimizing the likelihood of employee injury as a result of hazards like arc flash: engineering controls, practice controls, and personal protective equipment. Used in concert with one another, each of these methods can substantially reduce the danger to your employees. This results in having less worker downtime, better morale, and more effective compliance with regulations.
In a perfect world, PPE would not even need to enter the equation because protection would be a given. Unfortunately, there are limits on every aspect of the protective process.
When your employees are safer, your workplace is safer. Injured workers don’t show up to do their jobs, which imposes extra pressure on both you and the entire shop floor work force. As well, there are financial pressures from disability claims and potential lawsuits. Beyond these, your core operations could come under threat if the operating environment is not safe enough for workers to be effective. Perhaps worst of all, frequent injuries tend to result in low morale and higher turnover than necessary, which drives up the costs associated with new hiring and training new employees even further.
When you can rearrange your workplace environment to be safer and eliminate a given set of hazards, this is called an engineering control. Ideally, you would be able to minimize every risk to your workers and completely eliminate arc flashes from the environment in this way. Keeping equipment from becoming corroded, moisture and dust control are all reasonable steps you can take. Unfortunately, this is not the case and you also need to employ other means to create a safer work environment. Guiding employee actions can be helpful in some cases.
Through effective rules and keeping employees working in a reasonable way, known as practice controls, you can limit a wide range of different injury types. Often, merely changing when a shift occurs or how an employee is supposed to handle a given situation can reduce injury likelihoods by a large margin. The concept of “working smarter instead of harder” applies here. Unfortunately, even the most carefully laid out practice controls are sometimes not enough.
In these situations, using PPE is the penultimate safeguard for keeping your workers safe. So long as the equipment in question meets all of the safety guidelines and you can train your workers to use it effectively, PPE is a viable option for situations where you need to send workers into a situation where exposure to danger is a given.
OSHA has specific guidelines on when and how to use certain types of PPE to secure workers against various types of injuries. To safeguard against the effects of an arc flash, workers need to be protected against molten metal, excessive heat, sound blast with high blast pressure, and the potential for significant burns. In these situations, being able to effectively don, doff, and use PPE are all essential skills your workers need to have.
When you are dealing with temperatures that can reach 35,000 degrees, even improperly taking off the equipment an hour later can still result in a bad accidental burn. Training workers effectively is not a static process and your training methods and materials are going to need to be flexible.
ASTM International has guidelines for arc flash resistant materials. They need to protect against having a worker sustain second degree burns if they make incidental contact with the material that arc. Hearing protection should also be worn, as an arc flash can reach the 140 dB level — as loud as a gun being fired near the worker. It is important to note that while workplace safety concerns tend not to change, the materials that are used to keep workers safer change on a regular basis. Outsourcing a portion of your training to a company that is always up-to-date may benefit you.
Have you considered ensuring your workers get additional training you may not be qualified to give them? If so, you should contact NTT Inc. right now for information about the 2-day Arc Flash Electrical Safety Training program. NTT Training Inc. received certification from ACCET, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training. This accreditation ensures that NTT follows the strictest standards your business needs to be safer.