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We do annual cleanings, inspections, and IR scans of our facility distribution systems. Do our qualified and authorized employees need to wear PPE to actuate breakers?

Question asked by bhorn on May 11, 2017
Latest reply on May 11, 2017 by david.austin

We do annual cleanings, inspections, and IR scans of our facility distribution systems and have arc flash analyses performed. Do our qualified and authorized employees really need to wear full arc flash PPE just to actuate breakers?

I have interviewed some very large companies in the area, visited job sites where our employees work, and witnessed multiple large electrical contracting companies perform distribution system work at our facilties, and they do not wear full arc flash gear to cycle breakers. They do wear safety glasses and appropriate gloves/protectors and stand to one side with face turned away.

The big question is: Is this acceptable practice for equipment in a well-cared-for distribution system?

We started down the road of requiring arc flash gear per the arc flash label for any breaker actuation. It is negatively impacting what, to date, has been good momentum toward a strong arc flash protection program. Everybody understands the need when pulling covers and servicing equipment, but asking people to cycle breakers in a moon suit on systems where we have high confidence in their stability and quality has taken its toll on the program.

I want to protect our employees and I want them to have an interest in protecting themselves, but after reviewing all available information, interviewing other companies, and consulting with many experienced engineers who have an understanding of circuit breakers/disconnects, I don't feel the risk, in this situation, is high enough to warrant suiting these guys up, scaring the staff, and weakening all other elements of an otherwise strong safety culture.

I'd like to be able to propose a "natural fiber clothing, safety glasses, gloves, stand-to-the-side" approach in any situation where we know the standing of our facility equipment. Am I way off base in thinking this is perfectly acceptable?