The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) created a Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, NFPA 70E, with the purpose of protecting workers in the electrical industry from arc flash. The most effective protection is the use of flame resistant uniforms in the workplace.
Manufacturers of flame resistant uniforms and clothing have special arc rated items that are specifically made to withstand the various levels of arc flash and comply with the 70E safety standards. The following article will help you understand NFPA 70E and how to choose the appropriate flame resistant uniforms to protect your workers.
What Is NFPA 70E?:
NFPA 70E outlines safety standards for workers during the installation, maintenance and repair of electrical devices that are capable of generating arc flash. While an arc flash may be inconsequential, it can also be highly dangerous; causing an explosion, fire and damage to the surrounding equipment, area and personnel.
Arc flash hazard was first addressed in 2000, and a new version of the standard was released in 2009 that further supports the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including flame resistant clothing.
NFPA identifies 4 levels of Hazard Risk Categories (HRC) depending on the type of electrical device and job task being performed. A professional hazard risk assessor can determine your employees’ HRC level.
While compliance is voluntary, the standards are recognized by OSHA and may be enforced as a mandatory regulation by an employer, union or a national/local regulatory agency.
Arc Rated Flame Resistant Uniforms:
Flame resistant clothing is created with various arc ratings based on the HRC level. Look for manufacturers that comply with ASTM F1506 standards and have clearly defined arc ratings. The ratings may be stated in terms of the HRC level (0, 1, 2, 3 or 4), or in terms of the Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV) or Energy at Break Open (Ebt) (greater than or equal to 4, 8, 25 or 40 cal/cm2).
Most manufactures offer all types of flame resistant outerwear such as pants, shirts and coveralls, but it is important to consider other types of clothing as well. Undergarments, t-shirts, shorts, gloves and balaclavas can perform as additional layers of protection and can be the difference in a life-threatening situation. Look for flame resistant uniforms and clothing that contain modacrylic fiber, a non-combustible material that is lightweight and soft, yet strong and resilient.
Another consideration when choosing flame resistant uniforms is the fabric’s moisture wicking ability. Sweat and moisture can cause uncomfortable and unsanitary conditions, but can also potentially lead to more dangerous conditions like over-heating, dehydration and steam burns if a fire does occur.
Safety is job number one in the electrical field where arc flash is possible. Follow the NFPA 70E standard to protect your employees by choosing arc rated, flame resistant uniforms that are comfortable and moisture wicking.
Ryan Jackson writes for DRIFIRE (http://www.drifire.com), developer of comfortable electrical safety clothing that combines safety with moisture management. DRIFIRE is dedicated to providing HRC clothing to electrical workers and commercial personnel to protect them from dangerous work conditions.
More Nfpa Articles