Important PPE Issues Associated With Electrical Hazards
Electricity-related hazards at the jobsite include electric shocks and burns, arc-flash burns, arc-blast impacts, and falls. Workers also might need PPE that addresses multiple hazards. Here are the most important PPE issues associated with electrical hazards:
General PPE selection. The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) 70E standard on electrical hazards provides requirements for PPE for both electrical and arc-blast hazards. Minimally, PPE for such work should include an untreated, natural-fiber, long-sleeve shirt and long pants, as well as safety glasses with side shields. Depending on the voltage and the electrical tasks, different types of PPE are required.
Hard hats. Electrical work can create bump hazards for heads or situations in which objects can fall on workers' heads. To address head and electrical hazards, all hard hats approved for electrical work made since 1997 are marked as Class E. Hard hats made before 1997 are marked Class B.
Managers must not allow workers to store any objects, including gloves or wallets, inside the top of the hard hat while it is being worn. The space between the inside harness and the top of the hard hat must remain open to properly protect the worker.
Foot protection. Workers must wear protective footwear when a risk of foot injury from sharp items or falling or rolling objects exists or when electrical hazards are present. The footwear must be approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI approval codes usually are printed inside the tongue of the boot or shoe. Footwear is marked EH — for electrical hazard — if it is approved for electrical work. Footwear made of leather must be kept dry to protect the technician from electrical hazards, even if it is marked EH.
Arc flash. Extreme electrical hazards include arc flash, where temperatures as high as 35,000 degrees have been reached during arc-blasts. Technicians must wear special PPE to protect against arc-flash. The NFPA 70E specifies the use of fire-resistant protective clothing, including a multi-layer flash suit jacket and pants, a wraparound face shield, a double-layer switching hood, voltage-rated gloves with leather protectors, and an electrically rated hard hat.
Plumbing hazards can present workers with a variety of personal safety hazards. Most hazards are related to exposure to toxic materials, chemicals, or biological material. In addition to general safety hazards, plumbing-specific hazards include exposure to epoxies and glues, heavy metals, biohazard agents, asbestos-containing materials, and mold.
Additional hazards are related to wet environments. They include slips, falls, and increased risk of electrical shock. Typical PPE used for plumbing work includes footwear, gloves, eye protection, head protection, and respiratory protection.
Foot protection. Appropriate footwear is necessary to avoid slips, trips, and falls in wet environments. Workers should wear a sturdy shoe with a protective toe box and a non-slip sole. Managers also should consider potential electrical-hazard ratings on footwear as discussed earlier. The footwear also should be protected with foot coverings or should be washable when employees work in environments contaminated with lead, asbestos, and biohazard agents.
Eye and face protection. These products must protect against particulates, chemical and biohazard splashes, burns from steam, and work involving high-pressure systems. Face shields generally provide greater protection than eyewear alone. Managers should consider special eye and face protection when plumbing activities involve welding.
Hand protection. Selecting hand protection must address the hazards associated with material handling, biohazards, sharps, and high temperatures in steam systems. The protection offered by disposable plumbers gloves is the ability of the gloves to withstand viral penetration. Such gloves that pass viral penetration tests — under ASTM1671D — provide an effective barrier against bloodborne pathogens and other infectious materials
Protective clothing. Disposable protective clothing generally is required in areas that present potential exposure to biohazards, mold, asbestos, and lead. Workers might need additional protective clothing when the task involves exposures to high temperatures or high-pressure operations. Managers should be sure to select protective clothing that is appropriate for both wet and potentially contaminated environments.
Respiratory protection. Respirators are always the last line of defense against airborne hazards, such as infectious agents, asbestos, lead, and other chemicals. Managers should be aware that the use of respirators requires a written respiratory protection program, fit-testing respirators on employees, medical clearance to wear respirators, and training.