- Describe why the use of personal protective equipment is required to ensure one’s safety.
- Recognize the correct selection and usage of personal protective equipment for electrical utility lineworkers.
- Identify fall protection equipment, as required by OSHA, for electrical utility lineworkers.
- Distinguish the differences between typical insulating safety tools and equipment as well as their characteristics and uses as required by OSHA.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in one period of observation, hard hats were worn by only 16% of workers who sustained head injuries. Only 1% of approximately 770 workers who suffered face injuries were wearing face protection. 23% of the workers with foot injuries wore safety shoes or boots.
As lineman, your workers risk their safety and health each day on the job. Possible injuries range from a minor bump on the head to electric shock, or even death. Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is critical to successfully working in many high-risk work environments. In some cases, PPE stands as the only control for specific hazards.
While electric distribution equipment is safest to work on once it’s de-energized, isolated, tested for absence of voltage and grounded, that isn’t always possible. This means that workers have to plan work carefully, make the right PPE choices, and follow best work practices to ensure personal safety and that of their colleagues, when working on energized systems.
Electrical hazards faced on the job include being exposed to energized parts, electric arcs or flashes, with as much as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit of heat exposure, flying projectiles, and pressure waves with as much as 2,000 pounds per square foot resulting from an electrical explosion. The greater the energy, the greater the potential hazard.
Employers are required to provide appropriate PPE that meets the latest American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Consensus Standards. It’s the employees’ responsibility to determine when to put on and take off protective equipment, and to maintain it in a safe and reliable condition, as well as periodically inspect or test it.
Lineworkers have a potential exposure to UVA and UVB light and burns, if an unexpected arc occurs when working on or near energized electrical equipment. These technicians must choose PPE and clothing with the correct Arc Thermal Protection Value (ATPV) that will not increase the extent of an injury.
Here are some examples of appropriate and inappropriate clothing:
Electrical and utility workers should not wear clothing made from highly flammable or meltable materials, such as untreated polyester, nylon, acetate, or rayon, because these materials can easily ignite and melt in the event of an electric arc.
There are two types of clothing that are acceptable for workers to wear. Clothing made from natural materials, such as cotton or wool, should be worn next to the skin, as these materials will not easily ignite. Keep in mind that all-natural fibers do not currently meet the minimum requirement of 1.2 Calories centimeter squared protection from a second degree burn. The outermost garment they wear should be arc rated to the appropriate hazard risk category for the work they are doing.
Low Energy Arc
Clothing such as denim jeans and cotton sweatshirts will provide a very low caloric value of protection in the event of an arc, by providing some thermal insulation, and will not ignite as easily as synthetic materials.
High Energy Arc
At higher caloric values of energy transmission, even clothing made from natural materials can ignite and continue to burn, increasing the severity of the burn. For instance, a 12,000 kV distribution system has a risk exposure of 8 Calories or less, under most circumstances. In these situations, where there are higher caloric values of exposure, use clothing made from arc-rated fire retardant materials with an ATPV for the known Incident Energy of Exposure.
Here are several types of personal protective equipment you may require workers to wear:
Rubber gloves with leather protectors
Leather work gloves
Safety goggles and glasses
Di-electric over shoes and work boots
Fall protection is another type of personal protective equipment including fall arrest, work positioning, or travel restricting equipment. If a worker is an “unqualified climber or in training” working more than four feet above the ground, they must use a full body harness and travel restricting equipment. When your workers are certified as “qualified climbers”, 100% fall protection equipment is not required while climbing or changing locations on poles, towers, or similar structures that support overhead distribution lines and equipment. Always use fall protection equipment when the conditions or the structure make climbing without fall protection hazardous.
If working near exposed energized conductors or circuit parts energized at 1,000 volts or less and there’s a chance that tools or other equipment might make contact with the conductors or parts, workers must use insulated tools or handling equipment.
Protect and maintain all rubber insulating equipment with care, which includes regularly cleaning, inspecting, and testing it. Keep in mind that when PPE is dirty, the insulating capability decreases.
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