OSHA requires the use of electrical insulating gloves and other PPE in high and low-voltage applications for anyone working on or near energized circuits. To determine if your PPE is equal to the task, be sure you fully understand the hazards your employees face.

Electrical shock, arc flash, and arc blast are hazards associated with working on or in close proximity to energized equipment. All three types of situations can and do occur in industrial facilities where low voltage equipment (generally defined as under 600 volts AC) is typically in use, as well as in high-voltage electrical utility plants.

An electrical arc flash creates a blast, known as an arc blast, which can cause additional damage to people and property from exploding equipment and a high-velocity blast of fragments and molten metal. Such blasts can result even from low energy arcs in plants that contain flammable gases or vapors or combustible dusts, according to OSHA.

Current (not voltage) that travels through a person’s body when it becomes part of an electrical circuit causes damage to internal and external organs and can lead to death. The effect on a person depends on intensity and duration among other variables, and can range from mild tingling sensations to heart paralysis, severe burns of tissue and organs and ultimately, death.

Does your PPE match the hazard?
While rubber insulating gloves are the first line of defense against contact with any energized components or electrical lines, they are only one component of the protective equipment necessary. Other equipment includes insulated tools, flame-resistant clothing, rubber blankets, and dielectric footwear. This is in addition to any other normally used personal protective equipment, such as a hard hat, fall protection, protective eyewear, and hearing protection.

Insulating roll blankets that can be cut to fit each job assignment also reduce risk. Hot sticks should be used for operating switches or handling conductors, and static discharge sticks are necessary for safely dissipating static or stored energy. Voltage detectors, grounding equipment, and insulated rescue hooks to pull an injured worker from a hazardous area are essential for proper personal protection from electrical hazards.

Regulatory standards
The first step in electrical safety awareness is understanding the regulations. The three applicable standards are OSHA 29 CFR 1910, Subpart S-Electrical; NFPA 70E-2009 edition; and NEC 2008.

Accessing these standards is easy. OSHA’s 29 CFR is available at www.osha.gov. The NFPA 70E-2009 Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace may be purchased through the National Fire Protection Association’s Web site, www.nfpa.org. (This consensus standard provides guidance specifically for industrial electricians working with energized equipment.) The National Electrical Code® (NEC®) also is available at www.nfpa.org.