Maintenance and construction workers alike are usually required to wear certain articles of protective clothing, dictated by the environment of the work area and the job being performed.
Types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for electrical works are:
1. Head protection
Some head protection is required on almost any work site. A typical electrician’s hard hat is made of non-conductive plastic. It has a pair of safety goggles attached that can be used when desired or necessary.
Class A or G hard hats
Class A hard hats provide impact and penetration resistance along with limited voltage protection (up to 2,200 volts).
Class B or E hard hats
Class B hard hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, with high-voltage shock and burn protection (up to 20,000 volts). They also provide protection from impact and penetration hazards by flying/falling objects.
Class C hard hats
Class C hard hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection but offer no protection from electrical hazards.
Another class of protective headgear on the market is called a “bump hat,” designed for use in areas with low head clearance. They are recommended for areas where protection is needed from head bumps and lacerations.
2. Eye protection
Eye protection is another piece of safety gear required on almost all work sites. Manufacturers require that eye protection, and sometimes hard hats, be worn by anyone, not just employees, entering the production area. Eye protection can come in different forms, ranging from goggles to safety glasses with side shields. Common safety glasses may or may not be prescription glasses, but almost all provide side protection. Sometimes a full face shield may be required.
These protective eyeglasses have safety frames constructed of metal or plastic and impact-resistant lenses. Side shields are available on some models.
These are tight-fitting eye protection that completely cover the eyes, eye sockets, and the facial area immediately surrounding the eyes and provides protection from impact, dust, and splashes. Some goggles will fit over corrective lenses.
Constructed of vulcanized fiber or fiberglass and fitted with a filtered lens, welding shields protect eyes from burns caused by infrared or intense radiant light; they also protect both the eyes and face from flying sparks, metal spatter and slag chips produced during welding, brazing, soldering and cutting operations.
Laser safety goggles
These specialty goggles protect against intense concentrations of light produced by lasers. The type of laser safety goggles an employer chooses will depend upon the equipment and operating conditions in the workplace.
These transparent sheets of plastic extend from the eyebrows to below the chin and across the entire width of the employee’s head. Some are polarized for glare protection. Face shields protect against nuisance dust and potential splashes or sprays of hazardous liquids but will not provide adequate protection against impact hazards. Face shields used in combination with goggles or safety spectacles will provide additional protection against impact hazards.
3. Foot and leg protection
Foot and leg protection choices include the following:
Leggings protect the lower legs and feet from heat hazards such as molten metal or welding sparks. Safety snaps allow leggings to be removed quickly.
Metatarsal guards protect the instep area from impact and compression. Made of aluminum, steel, fiber, or plastic, these guards may be strapped to the outside of shoes.
Toe guards fit over the toes of regular shoes to protect the toes from impact and compression hazards. They may be made of steel, aluminum, or plastic.
Combination of foot and shin guards
A combination of foot and shin guards protects the lower legs and feet and may be used in combination with toe guards when greater protection is needed.
Safety shoes have impact-resistant toes and heat-resistant soles that protect the feet against hot work surfaces common in roofing, paving, and hot metal industries. The metal insoles of some safety shoes protect against puncture wounds. Safety shoes may also be designed to be electrically conductive to prevent the buildup of static electricity in areas with the potential for explosive atmospheres or nonconductive to protect employees from workplace electrical hazards.
4. Hearing protection
Section III, Chapter 5, of the OSHA Technical Manual includes requirements concerning hearing protection. The need for hearing protection is based on the ambient sound level of the worksite or the industrial location. Workers are usually required to wear some hearing protection when working in certain areas, usually in the form of earplugs or earmuffs.
Some types of hearing protection include:
Single-use earplugs are made of waxed cotton, foam, silicone rubber, or fiberglass wool. They are self-forming and, when properly inserted, they work as well as most molded earplugs.
Pre-formed or molded earplugs
Pre-formed or molded earplugs must be individually fitted by a professional and can be disposable or reusable. Reusable plugs should be cleaned after each use.
Earmuffs require a perfect seal around the ear. Glasses, facial hair, long hair, or facial movements such as chewing may reduce the protective value of earmuffs.
5. Fire-retardant clothing
Special clothing made of fire-retardant material is required to be worn by electricians, engineers, and any person who may be exposed to an arc flash. Fire-retardant clothing is often required for maintenance personnel who work with high-power sources such as transformer installations and motor-control centers. An arc flash in a motor-control center can easily catch a person’s clothes on fire. The typical motor-control center can produce enough energy during an arc flash to kill a person 30 feet away.
Another common article of safety clothing is gloves. Electricians often wear leather gloves with rubber inserts when it is necessary to work on energized circuits.
These gloves are usually rated for a certain amount of voltage. They should be inspected for holes or tears before they are used. Kevlar gloves help protect against cuts when stripping cable with a sharp blade.
7. Safety harness
Safety harnesses provide protection from falling. They buckle around the upper body with leg, shoulder, and chest straps; and the back has a heavy metal D-ring. A section of rope approximately 6 feet in length, called a lanyard, is attached to the D-ring and secured to a stable structure above the worker. If the worker falls, the lanyard limits the distance he or she can drop. A safety harness should be worn:
1. When working more than 6 feet above the ground or floor
2. When working near a hole or drop-off
3. When working on high scaffolding