Did you know that OSHA 1910.269 now mandates that anyone working on or around electrical hazards must have complete 360 degree FR protection? This includes arc rated head and neck protection. In general, there are three different arc flash head and neck protection systems that can be used to achieve compliance. These systems are the FR balaclava and arc rated faceshield combination, FR balaclava and arc rated goggle combination, and the traditional "beekeeper"� style arc flash hood.
The FR balaclava and arc rated goggle combination is a less common, but perfectly acceptable alternative to the "beekeeper"� style hood. However, OSHA warns that this combination should only be used in environments where shrapnel is not a potential hazard. For compliance purposes, it is important that this combination that has been tested as a system to ASTM F2178, the test method for determining the arc rating for eye and face protective products. It is also important to note that to be considered an appropriate form of arc flash head protection under NFPA 70E, the actual calculations must be made during the hazard risk assessment instead of using the table method.
A more common system used as an alternative to the "beekeeper"� hood is the FR balaclava and arc rated faceshield combination. Used in lower level arc flash protection, NFPA 70E deems this combination acceptable to use for calculated risks up to 12 cal/cm2, whereas, OSHA and industry experts find it acceptable to use for up to 20 cal/cm2. The main benefits of this system are that it provides improved mobility compared to large, more cumbersome hoods and that it's not fully enclosed, which allows airflow to help keep the wearer cool. Many of the faceshields on the market feature a bracket that allows the faceshield to be adjusted at different positions for increased flexibility and ease of use.
The traditional "beekeeper"� style arc flash hood is considered the ideal solution by many. It is particularly well suited for task based applications because it is one contained system that can be quickly pulled on for use and then taken off when done. Because these hoods are often perceived as hot and uncomfortable, some workers may be reluctant to wear it. However, there are solutions
available to make the "beekeeper"� hood more breathable and comfortable for the wearer. A ventilation system can significantly increase the comfort of the wearer by providing fresh air into the hood to help keep them cool.
Some hoods are now made with a lift front shield that can be opened from immediate ventilation while away from the hazard zone. Another way to increase comfort while using an arc flash hood is to add a soft, lightweight FR balaclava underneath. These balaclavas are often included in arc flash kits and can be moisture wicking and help regulated body temperature.
With so many head and neck protection options available it can be difficult to find the right protective solution. Safety should be the first factor when taking any product into consideration. The calculated risk level, specific task, and relevant industry standards are all necessary to make sure the chosen head protection is compliant. Additional considerations should be taken in order to provide the wearer with PPE that is both compliant and comfortable.
Giving consideration to details like temperature and lighting conditions can ensure electrical workers are prepared with equipment that not only protects them, but allows them to do their job effectively, without distraction. OSHA sites "Use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment"� as a factor that puts workers at a greater risk for heat-related illness. Using the lightest available head protection (that still meets the proper requirements) can help to reduce the heat load on the wearer, lowering their risk for heat related illness. Providing the wearer with PPE that is comfortable and well suited to the specifics of their environment and tasks can lead to increased compliance, ultimately resulting in a safer, more productive workforce.
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