When anyone on your team performs energized work, it’s important to suit up in PPE that’s properly rated for the job.
There are TWO (2) types of PPE that come into play with energized work:
- Arc Flash PPE
- Shock PPE
Sometimes you need to wear one or the other, and many times you must wear both. Both types of PPE greatly reduce the risk of permanent injury, but neither is foolproof. That’s why you must understand why and how they work. Let’s look at the difference between Arc Flash PPE and Shock PPE.
First, let’s differentiate between the hazards these two types of PPE protect you from – Arc Flash and Electrical Shock.
Arc Flash is a thermal energy release that creates a powerful blast like an explosion. Arc Flash incidents create temperatures hotter than the sun, and the blast can hit anyone who is in range of the source.
Electrical Shock occurs when a body comes into contact with electricity and electric current passes between two points on the body, forming a circuit.
- Arc Flash PPE is designed to shield against the extreme heat unleashed during an arc flash incident. Arc Flash PPE can reduce or prevent burns caused by the explosion. Arc Flash PPE is made of fire-retardant materials rated for incident energy but not for dielectric impacts from electrical shock.
- Shock PPE insulates the body electrically so you won’t become part of a circuit. Shock PPE is rated for specific amounts of voltage contact but is not fire-retardant.
The key difference is that Arc Flash PPE is rated only for combustion, and Shock PPE is rated only for electrocution.
Arc Flash PPE should be worn any time a worker crosses the arc flash boundary or if exposed conductors are present. Shock PPE should be worn whenever a worker crosses the restricted approach boundary. These boundaries overlap, so for many jobs, it’s likely that both types of PPE will be required to complete the task safely.
PPE is the LAST line of defense against electrical hazards and can mean the difference between walking away from the accident or suffering serious injury or death. Understanding how Arc Flash and PPE work and their differences will help create a safer work environment for your team.
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