7.4.3 Use and Maintenance of PPE

Personal protective equipment may be used only for the purposes specified, except in specific and exceptional circumstances. It must be used in accordance with instructions and the instructions should be available and understandable to the workers. It is the obligation of the manufacturer to give clear instructions about use, care and maintenance of the PPE which should be followed up by the employer and workers. The instructions should specify in particular the cleaning and drying methods and means. They should also detail the storage and inspection regime to be adopted. All basic essential guidance with respect to cleaning should be given on the label or other marking of an item of PPE. More detailed additional information shall be given on Instruction for use/manufacturer’s instructions/ user instructions.

When choosing PPE, it is at the bottom of the hierarchy of risk control measures. As such, all lower order risk control measures need to have a much greater level of monitoring and review. The goals of the monitoring and review process should be:

  • That the PPE is being worn and inspected correctly.
  • Periodic review of the hazard/risk assessment may need a revision of the use of PPE.
  • That the inspection, storage, cleaning and decontamination is being carried out in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
  • That the PPE is maintained in a safe, usable condition to provide the intended protection to the user.

7.4.4 Training

The usual training, assessment and authorisation of persons is necessary and appropriate criteria must be applied, see Chapter 6: Process, Policies and Procedures. Workers need to be trained on how to use their PPE correctly, prior to the PPE being introduced into service. As a minimum, the training should include

  • Information concerning limitations and capabilities of the PPE.
  • How the PPE works and what the PPE will and will not protect.
  • How to follow the risk assessment of which PPE is a part.
  • Issues of sensory deprivation and how these issues can be mitigated.
  • How to read and correctly interpret the information which is given on label or other instructions.
  • How to use, wear and inspect the PPE.
  • How to store the PPE when not in use.
  • Information concerning arrangements for handling, cleaning and decontamination.
  • How to determine when the PPE is no longer fit for purpose.
  • How to obtain replacements.
  • The dangers of using PPE which is contaminated by inflammable liquids or substances.

It is recommended that a holistic approach be adopted for training the users of PPE and that they be engaged in the process of the provision and use of protective measures right from inception. Simply providing written instructions or information may not be effective and practical demonstrations and formal training will lead to better acceptance.

7.4.5 Record keeping

The keeping of records will assist in the management of the arc flash PPE. A full life history can be built for each item, from manufacture to disposal. The record keeping will allow the duty holder to understand the life cycle of the PPE and help with monitoring and review. The life cycle costs can be better understood when the cost of maintenance and durability are built in. This will allow for improvements in future decision making in respect of replacement and maintenance.

7.4.6 Routine examination

PPE should be examined preferably by the user before and after use. The overall risk assessment should detail the examination which should also be to match the thermal protective performance to the item of PPE. The PPE should also be formally inspected when the item has been cleaned and records kept about condition. Anyone undertaking inspections should be appropriately trained.

7.4.7 Cleaning and Ageing

Cleaning should be strictly in accordance with the manufacturer information including care instructions. Based on this information, the duty holder should determine the arrangements for care and provide a process for the cleaning and decontamination of arc protective PPE. This also gives an opportunity for the formal examinations and recording of condition.

Professional or industrial cleaning is the favoured method depending upon the severity of use and allowing home cleaning should only be done under strict considerations.

Ageing can be effectively forecasted by the manufacturer by indicating the maximum number of cleaning procedures. Deterioration due to ageing has an effect on the performance of the arc protective PPE and can be accelerated by exposure to chemicals and other agents, physical exposure such as radiation and heavy wear and tear.

7.5 PPE Test Methods for the Electric Arc Hazard

In Europe, for protective clothing, there are two tests that are used to determine the level of protection against the thermal effects of electrical arcs. The two tests are referred to colloquially as the “Open Arc Test” and the “Box Test”. Their full reference is given below.

Open Arc Test - IEC 61482-1-1:2019, Live working – Protective clothing against the thermal hazards of an electric arc – Part 1-1: Test methods – Method 1: Determination of the arc rating (ELIM, ATPV and/or EBT) of clothing materials and of protective clothing using an open arc.

Box Test - IEC 61482-1-2:2014, Live working - Protective clothing against the thermal hazards of an electric arc - Part 1-2: Test methods - Method 2: Determination of arc protection class of material and clothing by using a constrained and directed arc (box test)

Both the box test and the open arc test are entirely different in their methodology and application. Furthermore, it is not easy to determine equivalence between the output of both methods and the risk assessment process uses a different approach in each case. Depending on the needs, either or both standards can be specified.

The most commonly used output from the open arc test is an arc thermal performance value (ATPV) which is a numerical value of incident energy attributed to a product (material or equipment) that describes its properties of attenuating the thermal effect of energy generated by an open arc. For example, if the ATPV is 12 cal/cm2, then that particular specimen or item of PPE is capable of attenuating an incident energy of that same level or less to a “safer” value of 1.2 cal/cm2 for the wearer. Therefore, anyone undertaking a numerical risk assessment of incident energy level on site, can directly compare the results obtained to the thermal withstand properties of available PPE.

The main output from the box test is an Arc Protection Class. The box test method defines two arc thermal protection classes APC 1 and APC 2. The two classes cannot be linked to numerical risk assessment of incident energy level on site in the same way as the open arc method and do not provide an arc thermal performance value (ATPV).