Page 86 - OHS, June 2022
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The complexities of a safety strategy designed to allow more layering choices introduces new challenges to ensure all workers follow layering guidelines every time.
cal protection, no matter how achieved.”
Head Protection. The head protection you select may
influence the related decision to layer apparel or purchasing kits. Article 130.5(G) of the 2021 NFPA 70E limits balaclavas and face shields for head protection at 12 cal and requires an arc flash suit hood for exposures greater than 12 cal/cm2. Similarly, the NESC recognized by utilities, allows for shields and balaclavas to 20 cal/cm2. Since most employers want identical head and body protective levels for arc flash PPE, an arc flash suit ensemble would provide this consistency.
Available Layering Data. The manufacturers of arc-rated FR fabrics typically have single and combined layer arc ratings of ex- clusively their products available, but with the expanded choices of fabrics and arc rated apparel brands available today, many end users want information about competitive fabrics in layers. Since the arc testing lab time can be difficult to obtain, and fabric manu- facturers have such diversity in their own portfolios, it is perceived to be difficult to find arc ratings for combined clothing brands. Many specific combination tests have been commissioned by the
U.S. electrical utilities over recent years and often the garment manufacturers and distributors now have extensive arc ratings combinations of various fabric brands in layered systems, often in this range of 13 to 25 cal/cm2 resolving this issue for everyone.
Risk of Human Error. We would all agree that following rules, instructions and procedures is easier if simple. The complexities of a safety strategy designed to allow more layering choices introduces new challenges to ensure all workers follow layering guidelines every time. With the extent of available base- layer, daily wear and over-garment layering options available, employers can find many combinations to exceed the maximum incident energy levels workers are expected to face. Mitigating the risk of human error is possible through on-going education about the purpose and functionality of layered AR/FR clothing, and monitoring use for accuracy.
Comfort and mobility. If the earlier considerations favor arc flash suit ensembles over layered daily wear systems for this range of exposures, the equalizing variable that matters most is the comfort and mobility experienced by the wearer.
The truth is, both approaches work very well, with comfort focused improvements in the market making either solution highly effective to deploy and monitor. The newest, lightweight “phase-changing” FR fabric technologies in layered apparel provide elevated levels of protection in conjunction with great comfort that workers actually like to wear as layered systems and will routinely wear correctly when required. Also, super- lightweight and enhanced 40-cal arc flash ensembles have recently appeared that are now lighter than ever. Some brands also now include added system design features making these suits easier to put on and take off, resulting in many employers prescribing the use of these ensembles for all various ranges of incident energies above the range of the arc rated daily wear apparel.
Rich Gojdics is Senior Vice President of Sales for National Safety Apparel, a U.S. manufacturer of arc flash apparel, electrical PPE and other Personal Protective Equipment.
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