Personal protective equipment (PPE) is one of the essential tools for performing electrical work. PPE selection is based on the type of electrical work to perform. The equipment required for high-voltage or low-voltage work is different. In that case, which PPE is the right one?
Electrical risk analysis
The ignorance of electrical hazards, primarily during non-electrical work, remains an important cause of accidents. A risk analysis enables the anticipation of potentially dangerous situations and the planning of prevention measures as effectively as possible.
A risk analysis allows the employer to ensure the safety of his employees that are called upon to work on electrical installations. This analysis will not only identify potential risks, but also assess the levels of incident energy at the intervention locations, control hazards using the proper personal protective equipment, inform and train workers on the risks to which they may be exposed and implement the means to minimize the levels of incident energy.
The key elements to consider in the electrical risk analysis:
- The characteristics of the electrical installation (voltage range, primary and secondary sources, positioning of the cables and insulated piping, etc.)
- The operating environment (proximity of live elements, the possibility of falling tools, moving or shifting of machines, etc.)
- The tasks to be carried out by operators (position of the operator, normal moves to perform and possible reflexes, personal protective equipment worn by the worker, etc.)
- An electrical risk analysis must be done before each operation and updated if necessary throughout the work performed.
Although the employer is responsible for implementing a risk analysis, it also concerns each stakeholder according to his tasks, competencies and responsibilities.
Review the CSA Z462-15 standard and applicable regulations
Several laws and standards control electrical work in Canada and address the requirements for personal protective equipment. Among them:
- CSA Z462-15 – Workplace Electrical Safety (third edition)
- Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety (LSST)
- Occupation Health and Safety Regulation
- Safety Code for the Construction Industry
- Quebec Construction Code, Chapter 5, Electricity
- Bill C-21
The third edition of the CSA Z462-15 standard - Workplace Electrical Safety represents the best practices in place for electrical safety. It entered into force on January 5, 2015, and has been updated at organizational and technical levels. Also, it is harmonized with the 2015 edition of the Canadian Electrical Code, part one, and with the 2015 edition of the NFPA 70E American Standard.
The 2015 edition of the CSA Z462 standard makes a significant change to the hazard identification and risk assessment process. It introduces new definitions consistent with the other safety standards such as CSA Z1000 and CSA Z1002. Furthermore, it offers many resources to help organizations seeking to incorporate electrical safety into their overall safety management system.
Even if the CSA Z462-15 standard is not a law, it is considered as the electrical safety reference. As the employer has the legal obligation to ensure the safety of his employees, he must demonstrate that the safety level at least equals to the one required by the standard. Indirectly, the CSA Z462-15 standard could give it the force of law.
Selecting personal protective equipment
Employees working in locations where electrical hazards are present must wear protective clothing designed for the specific body parts to protect and the type of task to perform. Protective clothing such as shirts, pants, suits, vests and parkas are commonly worn by workers and, in normal working conditions, are exposed to momentary arc flashes and related thermal hazards. Arc-rated rain gear against extreme weather conditions is part of this category.Considerations:
Multilayer systems: clothing made of inflammable non-fusible fibers may be authorized as sub-layers with arc-rated clothing to constitute a multilayer system for enhanced protection. If garments made of inflammable, non-fusible fibers are used as sub-layer, the arc rating must be sufficient. Never wear clothing that is not arc rated to improve the arc-rated quality of a garment.
Outer layer: clothing worn as an outer layer over arc-rated clothing, such as a vest or rain gear, must also be made of arc-rated materials.
Sub-layers: fusible fibers such as acetate, nylon, polyester, polypropylene and Spandex are not acceptable as a sub-layer (for underwear) against the skin. However, underwear or socks made of non-fusible fabric containing a minimum quantity of elastic material are authorized.Coverage: clothing must cover as completely as possible all potentially exposed body parts. Shirt sleeves must be buttoned up, and shirt and vest collars must be closed.
Adjustment: tight-fitting garments must be avoided (loose clothing provides additional thermal insulation due to the air layer underneath).
Freedom of movement: clothing shall be selected so as to impede as little as possible in the execution of the tasks while ensuring the necessary protection.For maximum protection, implementing and sustaining an electrical safety program is essential. The protective clothing aspect of the program will help specify the type of fabric to use before selecting a supplier of specialized work clothing against electrical hazards. The experts of SPI Health and Safety are at your service to answer your questions and help you set up or optimize your company’s safety program.