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If there is electrical energy in your industrial or production facility, the danger of arc flash is present. Arc flashes are a highly dangerous, even fatal, type of electrical hazard. An arc flash is part of an arc fault and creates a very bright light and intense burst of heat. It has the potential to create an arc blast, causing a traumatic force that can severely injure anyone or permanently damage anything in the area.
After assessing the electrical hazards, you will want to determine the area in which an arc flash can occur. Mark off the area that the arc flash is the farthest it can reach, this is known as the arc flash boundary. Any workers entering this area is required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
Electrical safety PPE requirements are set by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 70E regulations and consist of four different categories. The higher the risk of an electrical hazard, the higher the requirements. Regardless of the PPE category, the following equipment is always required:
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Safety goggles: A simple pair of goggles provide a reliable layer of protection for the eyes. This is especially important in cases of arc flash, where blasts can be blindingly powerful.
Hearing protection: Arc flashes can cause extremely loud noises, leading to permanent hearing damage to those in the area. Using ear plugs or ear muffs will greatly reduce the risk to hearing loss.
Face shield: Even with goggles and ear plugs, your face is still at risk. A proper face shield will be highly transparent, but strong.
Head protection: Along with eye, hearing, and face protection, it’s important to add an extra layer of protection for your head. Did you know an arc blast can create a force that is thousands of pounds per inch? This type of force can cause concussions. Your protective equipment will include a hard hat, and possibly an arc-rated arc flash suit hood.
Arc-rated clothing: This will include arc-rated long sleeve shirts and pants or coveralls. This may include an arc-rated jacket, parka, hard hat liner, or an entire arc flash suit; it all depends on the power of electricity being handled.
Gloves: Your hands are valuable tools, it’s important to protect the with proper safety gloves. Heavy duty leather gloves or arc-rated arc flash gloves will keep your bones intact and your skin unburned.
Leather footwear: Leather footwear will protect the feet from scorching or shock hazard, and is required for all electrical hazards,
Having proper PPE can minimize injuries and save lives; it is essential for effective electrical safety. Remember to supply your employees with the right kind of equipment and ensure everyone in the arc flash area understand the PPE requirements.