Personal Protective Equipment

More than likely the old cliché of “Dress for Success” is a familiar phrase but one could argue that it takes on an entire new meaning when used in reference to an electrical worker. Appropriate dress can make a difference for electrical workers. Professionals working with electricity, including installers and inspectors, need to understand that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job is important if not critical to a better chance of a trip home and not to some other less desirable destination. It also just happens to be something OSHA finds very important. Personal protective equipment is not just something you buy and put on like other clothing, this equipment is life safety related and should be handled, treated, and understood as such.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is equipment that is worn to minimize exposure to hazards that may result in serious workplace injuries. PPE can offer protection from contact with chemical, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. This equipment includes such protective clothing and accessories as gloves, glasses, shoes, earplugs, hard hats, respirators, coveralls, and vests as just a start. There are many other examples of PPE that are utilized to ensure a job is done while minimizing exposure to the hazards faced. PPE may vary for different trades and professions as the letters and acronym “PPE” is familiar to more than just those in the electrical industry.

Having the proper equipment for the job is only the first step for proper protection. Proper use and donning of protective equipment is a critical aspect to provide more assurance that the equipment performs as expected and desired. Equipment that is comfortable to wear removes some excuses of not wearing it. Equipment that is properly sized helps ensure proper protection is provided as well as removes excuses to not wear it. Having safety equipment and properly utilizing safety equipment are two separate subjects. An understanding of what equipment is required for the job is the first step. Understanding the proper way to put on and maintain this protective equipment is the next. Protective equipment must be of a safe design construction and maintained in a clean and reliable fashion.

Some of the main reasons why people do not wear their protective equipment even when it is available include comfort, training, suitability, and appearance. Equipment has to fit properly, be comfortable, and those who use it must know when it is needed, what is needed, and the proper ways to put on, take off, adjust, and wear it. There are many organizations that offer PPE for the electrical contractor. Ensure that the equipment purchased has the appropriate arc ratings and tested to proper ASTM standards. The world of personal protective equipment is growing as we speak. This equipment is becoming more readily available and in many different styles. Throwing a bag of equipment in your truck that includes safety gear you have never worn and of which you have no knowledge may not produce the intended/expected results. Studies confirm that equipment not used properly will not provide intended results.

PPE Performance

It is amazing that when equipment is properly applied, it will properly perform. Incorrect donning of PPE, or putting on the wrong PPE for the event, can have devastating results. A study conducted in 2009 and then expanded upon in 2010 reviewed data from real life arc flash events with the goal to evaluate the performance of PPE in these real life situations. This information was presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Electrical Safety Workshop, an annual event where the subject of electrical safety is discussed at great length and in great detail. This study analyzed a total of 40 events that impacted 54 workers. The authors of this research sought to determine how well PPE performs in real-world incidents as compared to results of PPE lab testing. What they learned and shared in their report was revealing an