Why the 40 CAL AirLite™ is an excellent option for all 4 Categories (PPE CAT 1-4)
By: Rich Gojdics
You’ve likely heard the phrase, better to be safe than sorry. Especially in the world of safety, it’s always important to err on the side of caution, and in many cases the decision to choose higher rated PPE happens because it’s easier to make a conservative estimate on the risk and incident energy than risk an injury or penalty for failing to provide the proper equipment for the job. Knowing this, the use of a heavier-than-needed suits adds stress and weight while decreasing breathability and mobility. Today, we would like to look at both sides of this equation and discuss an option that is not only lightweight but offers increased protection.
Arc Flash Studies and Arc Flash Risk Assessment
An Arc Flash Risk Assessment is the process in which a worker, safety and/or electrical engineer identifies a hazard, estimates likelihood of occurrence of injury, estimates potential severity of injury and determines if protective measures are required. The first method calculates the incident energy available when a worker may be exposed or ‘interacting’ with a specific piece of electrical equipment. The second method is the Arc Flash PPE Category Method. Used to determine acceptable levels of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), arc flash boundaries, and required or recommended practices for working with the piece of equipment, these analyses are part of a larger safety plan including Equipment Labeling (130.5 (H) and must be completed every five years or upon installation of new equipment.
Arc Flash Risk Assessments Studies are guided by OSHA 1910.132, NFPA 70E Section 110.1 and 130.5, in NFPA 70E (2018). New Table 130.5(C) provides the 70E user with a method to determine the likelihood of an arc flash incident. The Arc Flash PPE Category Method is provided in 130.7(C)(15), (Table 130.7(C) (15)(a) for AC and Table 130.7(C) (15)(b), DC and the Arc Flash PPE Category Method PPE Table in 130.7(C)(15)(c). New in 2018 is Table 130.5(G) for the selection of PPE when the incident energy analysis method is used. This Table previously existed as Annex material in H.3.b.
Erring Towards a Conservative Analysis—Better to Be Safe Than Sorry
While the methods to determine arc flash PPE in 130.5(F) have made the process of estimating incident energy and potential risk more accurate and practical, they act as guidelines rather than strict requirements (i.e. there are some situations where system variances could increase incident energy and the needed appropriate protection. Specific examples are found in Table 130.5(C).
Knowing this, isn’t it safer to err conservatively? One idea would be to suit up with a more robust PPE strategy assuming the methods to determine arc flash PPE don’t leave much margin for variances, such as changes in available fault current, lack of or improper maintenance, longer clearing times, or decreased work distance(s).
Challenges in “Over-Suiting”
Of course, choosing PPE for a higher level presents its own challenges, most notably the fact that workers will rely on PPE at a higher level, in many cases more routinely using CAT 4 PPE in various situations. Naturally, the choice to require higher arc-rated PPE places a different burden on workers.
Traditionally, full PPE Category 4 suits are bulky, heavy, and cumbersome, offering less mobility than would be offered in a lighter CAT 2 suit. For instance, a traditional PPE Category 4 Suit rated at or above 40 Cal/cm², would consist of fabric twice as thick and heavy as a suit to handle 12 Cal/cm2.
Tasks are often harder to complete in full category 4 suits due to the decreased comfort and mobility, meaning that it will take longer to complete a repair or adjustment while potentially making some tasks more dangerous.
The Solution: A 40 Cal Suit Weighing Less Than Most CAT 2 Suits
At Enespro PPE, we understand the ongoing concern that goes into selecting appropriate PPE, and we have developed a solution that allows employers the ability to err on the side of caution, providing a comfortable and lightweight 40 Cal suit that weighs less than a suit with a 20 Cal/cm² arc rating. The award-winning Enespro 40 CAL AirLite™ is made of a lightweight, soft and flexible 11.5oz fabric system that is 45% lighter than a standard PPE Category 4 Suit and 20% lighter than a standard 20 CAL suit.
With a 43 Cal/cm2 Arc rating, the Enespro 40 CAL AirLite™ is designed for PPE CAT 4 work but is lightweight and comfortable enough to be used in CAT 1, 2 and CAT 3 work as well. Pair this with the unmatched comfort, breathability and visibility of our clear grey 40 CAL Enespro OptiShield™ Vented Lift-front hood, and you get the best of both worlds.
Ready to learn more? Watch our video below to learn more about the Enespro 40 CAL AirLite™ suit, read the entire product description and specs and order here.
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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