Until recently, one area of safety gear designed for operators of both new and used bucket trucks that has not been discussed is the use of flame resistant clothing. A past directive in OSHA safety rules regarding clothing for electrical workers existed, although many in the utility industry felt this ruling was at best unclear. It did not fully address the risks presented by specific fabrics.
OSHA has updated its ruling on flame resistant clothing to be more specific and provide more concrete direction for electrical and utility workers who operate bucket trucks. The updated ruling designed to prevent operator injury while working on or near live electrical wires applies to all businesses who use bucket trucks.
OSHA and Flame Resistant Clothing
Previously, OSHA’s 1910.269 standard stated that employers were to prohibit the wearing of clothing that could further injure the wearer if touched by a flame or electrical arc. This standard was put in place to prevent the use of nylon, polyester, rayon and other synthetic fabrics, which melt and drip when burned, and could cause further harm to the wearer. Although most companies used 100% cotton garments that do not melt, cotton presents its own problem and was not addressed by the original standard.
The same cotton that may not melt and drip is extremely flammable. It can catch fire from the same things that cause synthetic fabrics to melt and continue to burn. Cotton can be made into flame-resistant material through specific fabric treatments; without this, it will readily burn and can cause serious injuries. The updated standard now specifies that outer clothing must also be flame resistant.
The Standard on Flame Resistant Clothing
Electric and utility industry employers are now responsible that their bucket truck operators be equipped with flame-resistant clothing that will not readily catch fire if hit with an arc or flame. There are different levels of flame resistance, so finding the right protective garments is essential. The amount of flame resistance required depends on the arc thermal protection value (ATRV) required for each job. This is determined according to the amount of energy an operator could contact. Therefore, before purchasing any flame-resistant clothing for a crew, companies must first determine the amount of “incident energy” an operator faces while doing a job. This is the amount of heat energy that an arc can produce from equipment or wires found in normal work uses.
Outfitting Crews with the Flame Resistant Clothing
To ensure all those who operate new or used bucket trucks are equipped with the required protective, flame-resistant outer garments, companies must do the following things:
- Determine the level of flame resistance required to meet OSHA protection standards.
- Determine which types of garments are desired by all employees.
- Find the best supplier to meet these needs.
There are many distributors of flame-resistant safety clothing, so choosing the right one is important. Some of these distributors are laundry and uniform companies, while others are in the safety industry. A business should research various fabric types, manufacturers, and flame-retardant methods, then find a reputable clothing supplier such material in the desired garments. With the many companies that currently offer these garments, there is a broad selection available.
With OSHA’s update on fire-resistant, protective clothing for operators of bucket trucks, every electric and utility company must examine their current protective gear and provide the proper garments to all employees. This requires a careful analysis of all work performed by a crew in order to determine the level of protection necessary. Additionally, should any new or used bucket trucks purchased include any of this gear, suitability must be determined before putting employees to work in these vehicles!