Regardless of the industry, PPE is often seen as the very last line of defence for workers and yet it is often the difference between a ‘near miss’ and a serious injury or even a fatality. It is because of the incredible protection which PPE offers, that employers are required by law to provide it to their staff when working in environments that are potentially hazardous.
However, when that hazard is an Arc Flash, it can be difficult to work out exactly what level of PPE needs to be worn by employees. To help with this, it is advisable to perform a basic risk assessment. This will identify the hazards, estimate the severity, estimate the likelihood of occurrence, and determine mitigation measures.
Once an Arc Flash risk assessment has been completed and the likelihood of occurrence has been shown as high enough to warrant the use of PPE, then something suitable for the hazard needs to be selected.
How is the Arc Flash PPE Category determined?
There are two different methods that can be used for determining the Arc Flash PPE category – the incident energy analysis method and the Arc Flash PPE Category method. The first of these two methods should always be the preferred one as it removes the need for any guesswork from the electrical worker.
Method 1: The Incident Energy Analysis method – this requires a full Arc Flash study to be performed on the equipment so that the hazard levels can be determined. Once this has been done, each piece of equipment requires labelling. On these labels is information that allows the task to be performed safely, with the most important piece being the incident energy. Whilst this method is time and resource intensive, it is well worth it.
From there on in, determining the PPE that’s required is pretty easy. Simply look at the label to see what the incident energy is and then ensure that all of the Arc Flash clothing has a higher rating.
Method 2: The Arc Flash PPE Category method – this uses tables that are found in NFPA70E and CSAZ462. The first step is to reference the table labelled ‘arc-flash ppe categories for ac systems’ (or dc systems). Then choose the type of equipment and the voltage being worked on. Voltage to choose from range between 240 V all the way up to 15 kV. After that, the parameters for the chosen equipment type need to be looked at that the system falls within this criteria. Where the system being worked on doesn’t fall within the parameters described in the table, then the incident energy analysis method should be used instead. Where the system does sit within the parameters, then simply look next to the equipment and it will state the category number (1-4).
At this point, examine the table labelled ‘personal protective equipment (PPE)’. Each of the categories corresponds with a minimum arc rating for the Arc Flash clothing. The table lists all of the options of garments to wear, although ensuring that the entire body is covered in the right category of PPE is enough.
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