Case Study: Therma
Getting electrical workers to wear Arc Flash PPE because what was available was old, bulky, and broken.
12 CAL Enespro Arc Flash Kit
Enthusiasm for PPE, including a a sense of appreciation that the company took work safety seriously.
A major HVAC provider struggled to get its electrical workers to wear Arc Flash PPE because existing gear was in poor condition and uncomfortable. Providing workers with Enespro kits generated enthusiasm for PPE, increased PPE use and stimulated appreciation by workers, who felt the company was taking their safety seriously.
Therma is one of Silicon Valley’s top providers of services for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. Their offerings span design, construction, implementation and maintenance of HVAC for buildings and industrial facilities, including large-scale data centers. Many of their projects and service contracts include significant electrical work. The company employs many specialized electrical workers, who often deal with high-voltage equipment that supports HVAC infrastructure.
Challenge: Getting Workers to Wear PPE When They Need To
Therma prides itself on a culture of safety. “We want our people to stay safe,” explained Fred Mulgrew, Construction Safety Manager at Therma. “It’s a core principle for the company, but safety is also critical for our business. Here in Silicon Valley, if you don’t have a strong safety record, you don’t get to bid on projects.”
Achieving compliance with policies for protection against arc flash explosions, however, was proving to be challenging. Though electrical workers understand well the risks they face when working with electrical equipment, the company was struggling getting them to wear Arc Flash Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). One issue related to the fact that Therma does more than just electrical work. They employ many different types of skilled tradespeople, so the message about PPE was not coming through as clearly as it might in a company that was exclusively focused on electrical work.
The more serious problem involved the state of the PPE that Therma had on hand. “We had purchased a bunch of different kinds of PPE over the years, usually deciding what to buy based on price,” said Mulgrew. “Then, over time, as items would break and wear out, we would piecemeal the kits together. It wasn’t a compelling way to make safety a priority. It was like saying, ‘Here, trust your life to this bag of mismatched stuff.’ It all looked like it had been dragged through a knothole.” Their PPE was kept induffel bags, where elements of it became worn out and broken over time.
In Mulgrew’s view, one aspect of the situation was psychological. “If someone hands you the key to a jalopy to drive, it’s not flattering. With all this old and mismatched Arc Flash PPE, we were not sending a message that we really cared about their safety.” He noted that Therma already has a quality control policy with other equipment. For example, the company never bought low quality or inexpensive ladders. And, they would always replace a broken ladder, never forcing people to work on a ladder that had been repaired. “This kind of thing affects morale. People want to feel that the company takes their safety seriously.”
On a practical basis, the existing PPE was bulky and uncomfortable. “The hoods were not conducive to ergonomic work,” Mulgrew added. He is intimately familiar with this kind of issue, having spent 30 years as a pipefitter and welder. “Gear matters a lot, if you’re trying to get the job done. And, it started to become clear that even as we bought replacement parts for these ad-hoc kits, the new stuff wasn’t all that cheap. We needed a better approach.”
Solution: 12 CAL Enespro Arc Flash kits
Mulgrew’s team reviewed multiple options for new PPE and decided to move forward with the 12 CAL Enespro Arc Flash kit. The kit, which comes in its own gear bag, consists of coveralls made with Westex UltraSoft® as well as an OptiShield™ clear grey faceshield, an MSA V-Gard® hard hat, safety glasses and silicone ear plugs. It features an ActiveCool Venting™ underarm system, flame-resistant knit cuffs, a high temperature zipper with Nomex® tape and an elastic back waist for improved fit and mobility. The kit meets standards for ASTM F1506, OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269, NFPA 70E-2018 PPE Cat 1 & 2.
Therma took an incremental approach. “It’s like if you are going to tear down an old bridge, build a new one next to it first,” Mulgrew shared. “Before we took the old stuff out of service, we bought a kit or two. I had a few guys that I could trust would wear it. Their feedback was positive. Then, we started buying more and put it into circulation.”
Benefits: More PPE Use; Improved Attitudes about Safety
The new Arc Flash kits from Enespro have facilitated a significant increase in the use of PPE at Therma. Mulgrew described how teams that hadn’t yet received their new Enespro gear started asking for it. “Those who did have it seemed to have an attitude like, well, they went to the trouble of getting me this nice gear. The least I can do is wear it,” Mulgrew shared.
As a matter of safety policy, Mulgrew is pleased that PPE has evolved from being “just a box to check,” as he put it. “Compared to the injuries it can avoid or the lives it can save, it’s a small price to pay,” Mulgrew stated.
Particular aspects of the Enespro kits also impressed Mulgrew and his electrical workers. The lightweight fabric was a big hit, he revealed. “They’re already wearing jeans and long sleeves,” he said. “If you’re asking them to put on something that looks like a parka for the north pole, it isn’t going to work. The Enespro kits were a welcome change. It’s easy to get on and off. It slips over their clothes.”
The hood and face shield are also considered practical and comfortable. Workers like the grey tint of the lens on the face shield. The older suits came with a green color mask, which tended to obscure the work area. The Enespro face shield enables the wearer to differentiate colors.
In addition to the lightweight, ergonomically-sound nature of the Enespro kit, one aspect of the kit that impressed Mulgrew was the way it was packaged. “The carry bag is designed to protect the gear,” Mulgrew noted. “That may not sound like a big deal, but it is. We had so many problems with Arc Flash PPE that got squashed and cracked in the back of vans because there was nowhere to put it. Then, as it got ruined, no one wanted to wear it. Enespro has made this problem go away.”
Therma is now working safer than before with Enespro 12 CAL kits. To learn how Enespro PPE can improve the safety culture at your business, visit www.enesproppe.com.