Electrical safety PPE to increase worker safety, comfort, and productivity

Sept. 2, 2020
Sheila Kennedy says innovative fabrics and lightweight gear improve comfort and enhance protection from head to toe.

Wearable personal protective equipment (PPE) helps to keep workers safe and focused on the job. Electrical risks such as shock and arc flash are countered with apparel and accessories meeting industry standards. Developments in hazard detectors, face shields, clothing, and footwear are designed to increase safety, comfort, and productivity.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy

Wearable tools and accessories

Awareness of unseen electrical threats is provided with the Compass personal voltage and current detector from SafeGuard Equipment. Clipped to the brim of any standard hard hat, it provides audio and visual alerts when the wearer gets close to a jobsite risk and advises of its proximity and direction.

Lightweight and durable, its case design and sensor technology allow workers to mount Compass onto a hard hat and calibrate its sensors to optimize electrical safety in a wide variety of hazardous environments, says Brady Hansen, training director at SafeGuard Equipment. “At current count, we have received reports of at least 16 workers’ lives being saved by utilizing their Compass and heeding its advance warnings in order to avoid contact with lethal voltage,” he adds.

Face shields protect against arc flash hazards. The VIZEN from Petzl is a full-coverage shield offering face and eye protection while preserving 180-degree peripheral vision. It can be worn over eyeglasses and has scratch-resistant and anti-fog coatings.

“The VIZEN is unique in that it attaches directly to the Petzl VERTEX helmet, making a complete solution for head and face protection for electrical work,” says Jeremiah Wangsgard, technical information manager at Petzl America. “In addition to ANSI Z87.1, the VIZEN is certified as GS ET-29, Class 1, which is a certification for face shields for electrical work.”

Electrical safety footwear is nonconductive and the soles and heels are resistant to electrical shock. Outsoles provide a secondary layer of protection against incidental contact. The Iron Age IA5018 Groundbreaker from Warson Brands, like others that hold an Electrical Hazard (EH) rating, is built to meet and exceed the ASTM safety standards for electrical hazard resistance.

The boot’s solid rubber outsole can withstand 18,000 volts of electrical current for the testing duration with less than 1 milliamp of leakage, says Brad Costephens, product manager at Warson Brands. “While the best safety practice is avoidance of exposed electrical current in any form, this boot offers excellent protection in resisting those currents from contacting the wearer,” he says.

Protective clothing

Electrical workers need flame resistant (FR), arc-rated (AR) apparel. Lakeland Industries offers CAT 2 level protection base layer garments and a complete moisture management FR layering system. “Our High-Performance FR fabrics were originally created to boost athletes’ performance in extreme outdoor conditions by keeping them drier and cooler in hot conditions and warmer in cold weather,” says Christopher J. Ryan, executive chairman of Lakeland Industries.

By utilizing inherently FR fabrics with “permanent” moisture-wicking properties, workers are protected for the life of the garment, since Lakeland is not utilizing any type of FR or moisture-wicking “treatment” that could eventually wash out over the service life of the garment, Ryan explains.

The new Versa Collection FR clothing line from Tyndale offers FR/AR protection in comfortable, contemporary designs. Suitable on or off the job, the line ranges from CAT 4 bomber jackets to CAT 2 denim jeans, long-sleeve t-shirts, button down shirts, and hooded sweatshirts.

“If you judged these items by how they look and feel, you’d never guess that they’re arc-rated and flame resistant,” says Scott Margolin, vice president of technical at Tyndale Company, Inc. “Tyndale’s focus has always been on protecting workers with products they want to wear, and that’s why we set out to create the Versa Collection. It combines the most innovative protective fabrics and most current styles with the quality of USA manufacturing.”

Complete arc flash kits are available from Enespro PPE. The kits include USA-made clothing and accessories such as hoods/shrouds, face shields, balaclavas, hard hats, safety glasses, ear plugs, and a PPE gear bag. Glove kits are also offered.

Mike Enright, president and CEO of Enespro PPE, says the company listened to end users to gain insight on how to reinvent arc flash PPE and added lightweight and breathable comfort, improved mobility, and enhanced visibility. For example, Enespro’s AirLite arc flash suits are 40% lighter than traditional suits and their ActiveCool Venting underarm system increases airflow by five times and stretch by three times.

Technology Toolbox

This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.

About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or

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