NFPA 70E- Four Categories, Two Suits: Why Many Organizations Opt for the PPE CAT 2/CAT 4 Approach
By: Rich Gojdics
While PPE selection has gotten easier as a result of the latest NFPA 70E standard, there is still a bit of confusion regarding worker selection of arc rated clothing. How can you ensure that workers are adequately protected? By limiting the options. Today, we would like to explore why many companies are opting to eradicate CAT 1 and CAT 3 suits from their inventory and use only CAT 2 and CAT 4 suits.
As we’ve discussed in a previous blog on PPE categories, there are four categories of personal protective equipment in the latest NFPA 70E Standard, down from the five hazard risk categories (HRC) in editions prior to 2015. However, most facilities opt for a two-level approach when choosing arc flash PPE—with good reason.
Why a Two-Suit Approach to Task-Based PPE is Easier
When you look at the four PPE categories, there are really only two ‘styles’ of required PPE—single layer (CAT 1 and 2) and multi-layer (CAT 3 and 4). With this in mind, the decision to focus on only two categories (CAT 2 and CAT 4) makes business sense.
While the latest standard has made it easier to identify levels, labeling equipment using the reverse-study method and selecting PPE using the PPE tables, having to choose between four different types of PPE is a hassle for many employees.
For many businesses, the decision to remove CAT 1 and CAT 3 suits is an easy one, reducing the amount of time it takes to choose the right PPE.
OSHA regulations require employers to provide workers with the appropriate PPE for the job. However, as a business, you also need to make money. As a purely financial decision, the choice to provide workers with only CAT 2 and CAT 4 suits makes sense.
Now that many single layer arc rated fabrics meet CAT 2 (minimum of 8 ATPV), there is no reason to use something that only provides 4 calories of protection, which is the required minimum in CAT 1. Added to this, with little difference in terms of weight or comfort between a CAT 3 suit and CAT 4 suit, most simply select CAT 4 gear to cover both. Therefore, most businesses opt to eradicate the CAT 1 and 3 suits altogether.
Innovation in the PPE Market
One of the biggest complaints we heard during our research and design phase was the lack of comfort, dexterity, and mobility that plagued the electrical PPE industry—especially on the CAT 4 front. The decision to be over-conservative when requiring PPE was long met with skepticism from workers who dreaded the idea of wearing a bulky CAT 4 suit that limited their movement and made simple tasks more time consuming.
Simply put, even if a worker understands the dangers that exist from not wearing the appropriate PPE for the job, many believe that they can complete a quick task without donning the right equipment. It’s why workers make the same excuses about not donning the right PPE today as they did in a 2007 survey.
However, there is change going on in the PPE market. Arc flash suits are becoming more comfortable and less restrictive, and we are proud to be leading the charge.
CAT 2 and CAT 4: The Only Two Suits You Need
At Enespro PPE, we entered the market understanding the concerns that workers have about PPE comfort. Our goal was to shatter the status quo in electrical PPE so we designed our products to provide comfort without compromising safety. In fact, we developed a CAT 4 suit that is as light as many CAT 2 suits and is often used for all four categories while still providing the comfort of a CAT 2 suit
We are proud to provide a full line of arc flash PPE for all of your electrical needs, offering 8 CAL, 12 CAL, 20 CAL, and 40 CAL Arc Flash kits that are more comfortable, less restrictive, and an excellent choice for your electrical PPE needs. Learn more about our innovative line of products, shop online, or contact us to request a quote.
The One-Suit Approach in Action: LidCo Electrical Contractors Case Study
Think the one-suit approach isn’t plausible? It isn’t—if you work with a legacy PPE vendor. However, more and more companies are finding that our Enespro 40 CAL AirLite™ kit is so lightweight that they are able to cover nearly all situations with one product.
But don’t just take our word for it. LidCo Electrical Contractors, a safety-conscious organization with over 35 years serving commercial and industrial customers in Central Massachusetts recently opted to replace their PPE with Enespro’s 40 CAL AirLite™ kits in each service van.
The results were astounding. Not only did it increase use among workers, employees found the suit so lightweight, breathable, and comfortable that the company was able to move to a one suit approach. Ready to learn more? Read the entire case study below.
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