Arc flash personal protective equipment (PPE) provides effective reduction of harm or injuries caused from worker exposure during an arc flash incident. Furthermore, new technologies reduce the likelihood of an incident by helping minimize human error. Therefore the right Arc Flash PPE includes new product innovations that provide the best overall risk reduction.
Too often we learn that human error was the root cause of an arc flash incident. Electrical workers have a lot on their plate. Arc flash PPE can be a burden as much as it is a necessary control to mitigate risk. Balancing the need for protection with the ability to safely, effectively and efficiently complete an energized work task is a challenge.
Common issues created by arc flash PPE that can lead to human error include:
- Ability to see clearly.
- Improper colour perception.
- Heat stress.
- Ease of movement.
Don’t Flip Up
When using an arc-rated faceshield or suit hood the work task visibility could be dark and even the colours can be washed out or altered. The ability of a worker to see clearly is integral to the completion of a work task and when their vision is altered the potential for making a mistake can increase. Workers need the right arc flash PPE to see properly, otherwise they neglect to use it or end up lifting their protection, compromising their safety.
Different types of arc flash lenses are available including clear grey products. Faceshield and suit hood products with clear grey lenses provide significant improvements for worker visibility with 100% true colour perception. This is a solution for workers that helps minimize errors and reduces the likelihood of causing an arc flash.
A Bright Idea
One of the most important recent innovations in arc flash PPE technology is the ability to add lighting solutions. Many work tasks require a worker to partially block their surrounding light sources. Having a lamp located directly above your forehead so it can be centred on the work task is a huge advantage for workers that both makes the task easier and minimizes mistakes.
When a work task requires physical exertion the inside surface of a faceshield or suit hood can fog from increased exhalation, limiting visibility. Anti-fog coatings are important to reduce fogging. When using an arc flash suit hood, a ventilation system that delivers external air down the inside of the shield window can be very effective at keeping your vision clear on the coldest of days.
Workers that need to stand in one spot while completing their work end up re-breathing their exhalation when using a suit hood. Some designs allow workers to lift the front of their hood to breathe fresh air. However, if the worker has not stepped outside the arc flash boundary they are compromising their safety by lifting a critical component of their protection. Alternatively, hood ventilation systems are available to help circulate air to the workers breathing zone. This fresh flow of air helps workers stay alert and minimizes mistakes caused by heat stress.
Any arc flash PPE older than 5 years uses an arc-rated fabric that is heavier than necessary. Furthermore, these heavy weight fabrics are still being sold today, continuing to burden workers. It’s important to select the right arc flash PPE that has sufficient protection without being so heavy that workers suffer. Ultra-lightweight fabrics help reduce fatigue and can make a positive impact on heat stress management. When workers feel heat stress the symptoms include confusion, dizziness and fatigue. Arc flash PPE is used to mitigate risk and should not increase the likelihood of a worker making a mistake and causing an arc flash. Consider worker comfort and productivity when selecting the right arc flash PPE for your application. Lightweight fabrics make every movement easier.
Arc flash cooling vests are available and can also assist in keeping a worker comfortable in a hot environment. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when using a cooling vest to avoid causing injuries to the worker.
Manage Human Behaviour
Workers often neglect to use their full protection because they don’t have the right arc flash PPE. A heavy weight balaclava is very hot and can contribute to heat stress, therefore workers often “forget” to wear it. A heavy weight arc flash suit will be used less than an ultra-lightweight alternative. Workers are more likely to be compliant and use their arc flash PPE when it is the right product for the work task.
A common gap identified during electrical safety audits is the lack of arc flash PPE compliance. The most frequent objections from workers include:
- Physical discomfort.
- Makes the work task harder.
- Difficult to use.
- Increases the likelihood of making a mistake.
When the selection process is flawed the risk to the worker can increase. Selecting the right arc flash PPE ensures workers have the best possible protection without compromising their safety.
Do you need help with your Arc Flash PPE? Contact us for helpful advice. We specialize in connecting Employers with the best available products and services so their workers are safe and compliant. Visit our Website for more information.