Electrical Safety Clothing
Electrical contractors are responsible for installing and keeping the lights on at both commercial and residential buildings. Whether engaging in a consultation or actively building, electrical contract work will involve being on a construction site which means exposure to both high and low voltage electrical hazards.
Arc flash and electric shock are the primary hazards that electrical contractor safety clothing needs to protect against. When the job involves working on an active construction site increased visibility protection should also be considered.
Arc Flash Hazards
Electrical contractors perform a lot of work on construction sites where commercial and residential buildings are being constructed, repaired, and renovated. Often that work entails repairing, updating, and installing equipment related to breakers or switches and wiring. The possibility of an arc flash incident is something the worker needs to consider in preparation for engaging in these tasks.
Arc flashes can be caused by dust, accidental dropping of tools on live electrical equipment, condensation, corrosion, and installation. During construction or repairs, the probabilities of these factors causing an arc flash incident and exposing electrical contractors and other workers within range to an arc flash incident could be severe or deadly. On construction and building sites, workers lessen the risk of exposure by wearing proper electrical contractor safety clothing such as arc flash PPE and arc-rated clothing.
An arc flash assessment should always be conducted before doing any work on exposed electrical equipment that isn’t deemed safe. Even with this assessment, accidents can happen. Wearing arc flash personal protective equipment is an important safeguard against unexpected incidents. Be aware that arc-rated clothing should always exceed that of the hazard for protection against burns caused by an arc flash. In relation to arc flash, full-coverage protection includes coveralls, jackets, and hoods as well as arc-rated base layers so that no article of clothing ignites or contributes to further injury. ArcGuard® arc flash kits make head-to-toe coverage easily accessible with arc flash faceshields, coveralls or coats, and optional rubber voltage gloves to provide complete and customizable arc flash protection for electrical workers and contractors.
Identifying electrical problems, installing, and maintaining issues related to wiring and testing make up a good portion of the work completed by electrical contractors. Working with any electrical equipment including wires, transformers, circuit breakers, and alike presents the risk of a shock hazard.
The larger the voltage emitted by the equipment being inspected or repaired, the greater the risk and higher amp of electric shock possible. Contractors and all workers in this industry should take precautions to prevent harmful exposure to these hazards by wearing electrical safety clothing to reduce the injuries that could result from these incidents.
Workers and contractors often discount wearing gloves due to familiarity with their work, avoidance of these hazards over time, damaged or general discomfort of gloves, and perceived lack of dexterity. Electrical insulating rubber gloves are extremely important for any electrical work for protection against arc flash incidents and electrical shock.
Electrical rubber insulated glove systems consist of leather protectors worn over the electrical insulating gloves to offer protection from cut, puncture, and abrasion damage that may compromise the safety and effectiveness of the voltage rated gloves. Optional FR liner gloves can be worn under the rubber voltage gloves to reduce discomfort.
When selecting rubber voltage gloves, choose a larger size when measuring if a hand is between sizes. Consult National Safety Apparel’s rubber voltage glove guide for more details.
Electrical insulating gloves are tested according to ASTM D120 and rated by classes 00-4 based on maximum use voltage for protection they provide from and the proof testing. ArcGuard Rubber Voltage Gloves are electrically tested before shipment and available in classes 00, 0, and 2 in red, black, and yellow with kit options.
Using hand tools near or on energized equipment and during installation or repair can be a hazard for electrical shock as well as an arc flash incident. Understandably, hand tools are necessary equipment that electrical workers need to get the job and can’t be avoided. With this exception in mind, preventative measures and a hierarchy of controls should be followed to eliminate any electrical hazards and risks such as an arc flash. Insulated electrical tools that are compliant with NFPA 70E and ASTM 1506 that are tested for working on live electrical equipment should be used to eliminate tools as a factor in the event of an electrical or arc flash incident.
Arc flash blankets, also referred to as arc suppression blankets are meant to be used in underground work, in confined spaces, and to provide a protective barrier from irregularly shaped line hardware. They can also be used to cover equipment that is not in use but within the vicinity where energized equipment may be live.
Like arc flash PPE, suppression blankets should be compliant with NFPA 70E and the electrical arc blanket test method, ASTM F2676. In place of an arc rating (APTV), arc suppression blankets are determined for a maximum fault current or a break-open threshold.
Always conduct an arc flash assessment before determining the type and rating of any safety clothing needed for any electrical work.
Visibility should also be top of mind on construction and building sites where forklifts, cranes, telehandlers, and other motorized equipment are being used to carry out tasks. Consequently, in addition to arc flash and electrical hazards, electrical contractors as well as any construction worker on-site are also at risk for struck-by hazards.
FR hi-vis clothing can increase visibility and reduce struck-by hazards while also protecting against burn injuries that could be caused by an arc flash incident. Hi-Vis FR workwear is a seamless fit for electrical contractors for daily FR protection and improved visibility while assessing or performing work and maintenance on commercial or residential construction sites.
Electrical contractors have options when choosing effective hi-vis FR clothing based on location, near a major roadway or heavy traffic for example, and may/not need to meet ANSI 107 class standards. Standards for hi-vis safety clothing in ANSI 107 determines the type of color and amount of reflective material needed on clothing worn by workers depending on proximity to roadways and certain levels of traffic. Electrical contractors can choose ANSI 107 or non-ANSI 107 hi-vis FR options that will keep them seen and safe at any worksite.
Type O, or off-road, can be worn where work isn’t taking place near high volume vehicle equipment on public access roadways. Classes are discerned by background material of hi-vis apparel as well as its reflective tape and the tape’s width. If work does take place near a public access roadway, then Type R, Class 2, or 3 hi-vis apparel is needed.
For further explanation regarding ANSI 107, check out ANSI 107 Simplified on National Safety Apparel’s blog.
Hi-vis apparel must also be clearly labeled as flame resistant or non-FR. National Safety Apparel offers hi-vis FR color options that are ANSI 107 compliant in fluorescent yellow and fluorescent orange. To assist in answering the question of whether orange or yellow is safer for your situation read Orange Vs. Yellow – High Visibility Safety Apparel.
After an arc flash assessment has been completed, check the arc rating of hi-vis FR apparel and consider your needs before work involving energized equipment.
National Safety Apparel manufactures electrical safety clothing equipment including hi-vis and arc flash PPE that are a part of every electrical contractor’s daily workwear. Contact our customer service for more information regarding your electrical safety clothing equipment questions or reach out to a sales rep to discuss your specific needs.