PPE for everyday residential electrician requirements

Location
Massachusetts
Occupation
Electrician
I’m currently working with a company that is primarily an HVAC company. We employ 4 electricians that handle installs and service. Recently the company switched uniforms to polyester and instructed us to wear them. Naturally I’m not wearing polyester. I believe the NFPA 70E, information annex H2 lays this out, OSHA 1910.269 as well or am I incorrect? Basically, aren’t electricians required to not wear polyester? Thanks for any help.


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paulengr

Senior Member
I’m currently working with a company that is primarily an HVAC company. We employ 4 electricians that handle installs and service. Recently the company switched uniforms to polyester and instructed us to wear them. Naturally I’m not wearing polyester. I believe the NFPA 70E, information annex H2 lays this out, OSHA 1910.269 as well or am I incorrect? Basically, aren’t electricians required to not wear polyester? Thanks for any help.


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269 does not apply here. You fall under 1910.300-399.

It is POSSIBLE to create a serious arc flash in residential work but the solitary case where it happened was at the top of the main breaker in a temporary construction panel and it has to be 240. Below 200 V the arc just won’t self sustain. And it has to be a contained situation where the arc can’t propel somewhere else like the top of a breaker. In the case in 2009 in Georgia the two electricians didn’t wait for the lineman and tried to start breaking down the construction panel while it was live. The work uniforms were tank tops, shorts, and flip flops. One was burned and ended up in a burn unit. The other died. So it’s possible but this was a VERY extreme situation.

If you read 70E realistically the distance through air you need to prevent a shock at 120 V is under 1 mm. This is why the section on plugs talks about using dry leather gloves. They aren’t considered shock protection because they can’t pass the test (fill with water, submerge, and hit with high voltage. But obviously they work just fine and have for years.

As for arc flash except for the extreme case of right at the main panel on the main breaker, it’s pretty unlikely. It took over 20 years for a single case, meaning you are statistically more likely to be injured or die from pretty much everything else. So I’m not advocating arc flash clothing here. But aside from that polyester easily melts and causes much more severe injuries. True fire retardant PPE will burn (it’s just chemically modified cotton) but it won’t sustain a flame. Most of the protection is in minimizing the damage from lighting clothes on fire.
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Location
-
Occupation
Engineer/Technician
. True fire retardant PPE will burn (it’s just chemically modified cotton) but it won’t sustain a flame. Most of the protection is in minimizing the damage from lighting clothes on fire.
I wonder if the chemicals are the same as the ones in baby clothes?
🤔
 

tthh

Senior Member
Location
Denver
Occupation
Retired Engineer
Yea, the minimizing of burns makes sense. My wife had a freak thing happen...we were at some outdoor restaurant...picnic type tables...they had little table candles set inside stubby styrofoam cups to keep them from blowing out...well, in a breeze, one melted the side of the styrofoam a bit and that piece took to the flying and landed on her skin...smaller than a dime piece of melted foam...very serious and deep burn.
 

tom baker

First Chief Moderator
Staff member
Perhaps cotton clothes, no rings and non metallic watch would be appropriate.
There is more of a risk from working hot. Does OSHA apply to your area? In WA we are under WISHA, not OSHA. WISHA rules are based on OSHA, but NFPA 70E is not adopted.
 

ramsy

Roger Ruhle dba NoFixNoPay
Location
LA basin, CA
Occupation
Service Electrician 2017 NEC
You fall under 1910.300-399.

If you read 70E realistically the distance through air you need to prevent a shock at 120 V is under 1 mm. This is why the section on plugs talks about using dry leather gloves. They aren’t considered shock protection because they can’t pass the test (fill with water, submerge, and hit with high voltage. But obviously they work just fine and have for years.
Don't believe PPE can be reliable for long, but do believe insulated tools & gloves provide a false sense of security.

In the right climate, humid or static dry, distribution voltages go around your gloves, and don't care what you wear.

For inside wiring, gloves may only need be a few mm thick, until stabbed by a sharp point, or small guage wire.

Tic tracers ignore energized neutrals, and flinching causes more damage if you fall off the ladder, or go into defibrillation.

If people can't confirm shut down with meter & ground, they roll the dice and gamble their life.

Or, maybe minor jolts are their vaccine against covid?
 

paulengr

Senior Member
Perhaps cotton clothes, no rings and non metallic watch would be appropriate.
There is more of a risk from working hot. Does OSHA apply to your area? In WA we are under WISHA, not OSHA. WISHA rules are based on OSHA, but NFPA 70E is not adopted.

70E is never “adopted”. Arc flash falls under the general duty clause. You could just as easily adopt the arc flash rules in NESC or write your own but it’s easier to defend following a standard since then the agency can’t call the rules themselves into question.

As to working hot tests have shown arc flash PPR can be the same as regular work regular work clothes (some is worse than others). I know someone at an ammonia fertilizer and refinery complex in Trinidad where arc flash PPE is required and I often work in air plants and utilities where it’s mandatory in the Carolinas. No doubt wearing a loose short sleeve shirt and shorts like a UPS driver would be more comfortable but all of us do just fine. Above 12 cals you get into heavier stuff. My 40 cal suit is winter overalls and jacket so I get more use out of it than just working on equipment. But in summer in that stuff I can only work for a few minutes.

If by hot you mean working in rubber gloves the big trick is don’t do like a lot of plants and buy a single pair of class 2 size 12 gloves. Those don’t fit anyone but the biggest guys. I carry 2 sets that are my size so they fit snug for dexterity. I can easily do a lot in class 0 and that covers all low voltage work. 00 would be fine for residential. The class 2s are for medium voltage at least up to 15 kV. After that I only do stick work anyway.
 

tom baker

First Chief Moderator
Staff member
I will rephrase my question. Not all states are under OSHA, WA uses WISHA, and WISHA has rules on electrical safety.
These rules are not 70E rules but are equal.
 

paulengr

Senior Member
I will rephrase my question. Not all states are under OSHA, WA uses WISHA, and WISHA has rules on electrical safety.
These rules are not 70E rules but are equal.

Again, doesn’t matter. The general duty clause arises out of the statute, not regulation. You are required as an employer to protect employees against recognized hazards. Arc flash and shock are recognized hazards just as much as burns, fall protection, etc. The only difference is there are pretty specific regulations for say fall protection. In the past OSHA went for publishing detailed regulations. The problem with this approach if it takes years (decades) to make major regulatory changes. OSHA has instead opted to push various interpretations and enforcement actions which do not require changes to regulations. They can simply issue fines based on the general duty clause, bypassing a lot of regulation which is what they did. States can run their own state controlled regulatory agencies instead of OSHA or EPA as long as they equal or exceed the feds, which many do. Or they can be in parallel. For instance West Virginia is regulated by both federal and state mining regulations there are insanely anti-business.

But getting back to reasonable expectations I have a bunch of polyester uniform shirts. I do not wear them for electrical work. Even low level arcs can result in major burn injuries from melting fibers. Same thing if it gets hit with weld spatter. Same problem with hi viz clothing. Cotton clothing chars rather than melting so the risk is much less. That’s why when arc flash PPE is required nonmelting underclothes are required. This meets any requirements except at the main distribution panel, especially on the service entrance side.
 

tortuga

Code Historian
Location
Oregon
Occupation
Electrical Design
As others have said 250 volts and below is much safer than 480V. A new facility I work on internationally went with 240 delta instead of 480/277 in part due to the arch flash requirements for the on site maintenance tech.
 
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