Safety should be the best motivator

It’s hard to resist telling morbid stories of occupational accidents to motivate individuals to take safety precautions. However, the ease with which foreign objects can enter the eyes should speak for itself. Add to this the damage an arc flash can have on an electrician’s eyes and it should be reason enough to wear the proper eye and face protection. This allows focusing on the selection and use of proper protection.

For general eye and face protection the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) refers employers to ANSI Z87.1, “American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection.” This standard offers a chart, which matches the hazard, such as chipping or chemical splashes, with the proper eyewear. It can be found in the OSHA Standard 1926.102. Visit OSHA’s web site to review the chart (www.osha.gov).

All employees must wear approved eyewear, which is prescribed by the chart and meets the specifications set by Z87.1. If prescription lenses are required, they must be covered by protective goggles or the lenses and frames must be ANSI approved. This includes side shields for angular protection. All eyewear must be marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer. Eyewear must also be kept clean and in good repair.

There are four types of eye and face protection: spectacles or safety glasses, goggles, face shields and welding helmets. These are classified as primary and secondary protectors. Primary protectors are protective devices that can be worn alone or with a secondary protector. It provides the basic protection. Secondary protectors must be worn in conjunction with a primary protector.

Goggles and safety glasses are primary protectors. Goggles fit around the area of the face near the eye. They are made of a cup or cover for over the eye and a strap or band around the head to hold the cover in place. They come in a variety of sizes and with special features. They may protect the user from particles, liquid or vapor chemicals or radiation. Safety glasses are the most commonly used protector. They may offer impact and/or radiation protection.

Face shields and welding helmets are secondary protectors. Various styles and special-purpose helmets and shields are available to address specific hazards. They provide additional coverage for the face. However, since they are secondary protectors, they must be used with goggles or safety glasses.

Electricians involved in work where the potential exists for an arc flash have special Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs. The National Fire Protection Association NFPA 70E standard should be referenced for the proper protective clothing and eyewear. It requires an analysis, which includes procedures for determining an electrically safe work condition, a determination of the flash protection boundary and the PPE required for workers that will be within the boundary. An electrically safe work condition is one in which equipment has been deenergized and a proper lockout/tagout has been performed.

The PPE and—specifically, for the purpose of this article—the required eyewear are based on the incident energy. Incident energy is the thermal energy on this surface at a working distance from the arc source. It is measured in calories/cm2 or in joules/cm2. Approach limits to exposed live parts and PPE are based on the distance within which a person could receive a second-degree burn. A second-degree burn is associated with an incident energy of 1.2 calories/cm2 or 5 Joules/cm2. The IEEE 1584 standard offers incident energy calculations. It includes a spreadsheet-based calculator. It is recommended for enclosed equipment. ARCPRO offers a calculator that should be used for open transmission and distribution systems. More information on the calculators can be found at the IEEE Electrical Safety Resource Center at http://standards.ieee.org/esrc/index.html.

Regardless of the standard used or the eyewear selected, employees must be trained on eye and face protection for it to be effective. Be sure they understand:

• The proper way to wear the protector.

• The method for adjusting for proper fit.

• The items to look for when checking the protector for wear or damaged parts. Scratched or pitted lenses may reduce vision and seriously reduce protection.

• The maintenance procedure to follow.

• The proper method for cleaning the protector.

• The method for storing the protector.

• The warnings, cautions and limitations of using the protector, such as tinted lenses that do not provide protection from harmful optical radiation

• The types and hazards for which the protector is designed, and the level of protection provided. Protectors do not provide unlimited protection.

• The meaning of any significant markings on the protector.

Knowing the right eyewear and having employees who know how to use them can save money and avoid employee pain and suffering. Remember to consult the appropriate standards for the work being performed. EC

O’CONNOR is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or joconnor@intecweb.com.