Last Line of Defense: Are you using the best arc flash personal protective equipment for the job?

by Jordy Byrd

Safety is on-going conversation. Sometimes, the information discussed in your monthly safety meeting or even new hire training video is what matters most. You must trust that those messages struck a nerve with your workforce, so that each time they step out of a pickup and onto a job site, they’re protected.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is their last line of defense-but flame retardant coveralls only work if employees put them on before approaching the electrical circuit.

When in doubt, consult the experts. Every three years, the National Fire Protection Association releases a new edition of NFPA 70E, the standard that helps companies and employees prevent workplace injuries and fatalities because of electric shock, electrocution, arc flash and arc blast.

The tenth edition of the standard was released in 2015 and completely overhauled arc flash PPE requirements. The five Hazard/Risk Categories (HRCs) was introduced in 2012 and has been replaced with four arc flash PPE categories. While it may seem confusing at first, the four-category system actually simplifies the process of building an electrical safety PPE list for workers.

Each of the four categories describes a range of arc flash hazards and the minimum arc rating (AR) value for the required PPE. The AR value is determined by the manufacturer and indicates the amount of heat energy (in cal/cm²) the clothing can absorb or block before the wearer receives second-degree burns.

The four arch flash PPE categories include:
PPE Category 1: Minimum arc rating of 4 cal/cm²
- Arc rated clothing: long-sleeve shirt and pants or coveralls, face shield, flash suit hood, jacket, parka, rain wear, hard hat liner
- Protective equipment: hard hat, safety glasses or goggles, hearing protection, heavy-duty leather gloves, leather footwear

PPE Category 2: Minimum arc rating of 8 cal/cm²
- Arc rated clothing: long-sleeve shirt and pants or coveralls, AR flash suit hood, face shield or balaclava, jacket, parka, rain wear, hard hat liner
- Protective equipment: hard hat, safety glasses or goggles, hearing protection, heavy-duty leather gloves, leather footwear

PPE Category 3: Minimum arc rating of 25 cal/cm²
- Arc rated clothing: long-sleeve shirt, pants or coveralls, AR flash suit jacket and/or AR flash suit pants, flash suit hood, gloves, jacket, parka, rain wear, hardhat liner
- Protective equipment: hard hat, safety glasses or goggles, hearing protection, leather footwear

PPE Category 4: Minimum arc rating of 40 cal/cm²
- Arc rated clothing: long sleeve shirt, pants, overalls, AR flash suit jacket and/or flash suit pants, AR flash suit hood, gloves, jacket, parka, rain wear, hard hat liner
- Protective equipment: hard hat, safety glasses or goggles, hearing protection, leather footwear

Most day-to-day work with electricity and energized equipment only requires clothing that meets Category 1 or 2 protection requirements, but accidents in Categories 3 and 4 are potentially life changing or fatal. Creating a safety culture doesn’t end with posting PPE requirements and making appropriate equipment available to all employees. Instilling safe habits in employees requires frequent reminders through safety labels and signs, discussions in safety meetings, and possibly even disciplinary action.

Availability of PPE doesn’t save worker lives-using it does. Compliance is not satisfied by having an AR flash suit jacket in a cabinet near electrical equipment; it mandates that an employee use it. Those in a safety management role often have to take a tough stance with employees that make excuses rather than suiting up when appropriate, but this attitude pays off when employees go home to their families at the end of each work day. Safety is on-going conversation. It begins with you.

Jordy Byrd is a public relations specialist with Graphic Products. She writes about industrial safety and workplace hazards. For more information, visit GraphicProducts.com.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

Whitepapers

The Time is Right for Optimum Reliability: Capital-Intensive Industries and Asset Performance Management

Imagine a plant that is no longer at risk of a random shutdown. Imagine not worrying about losing...

Going Digital: The New Normal in Oil & Gas

In this whitepaper you will learn how Keystone Engineering, ONGC, and Saipem are using software t...

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...