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Another Change for Safety

BL&P is moving in the direction to ensure that more of its linemen are better protected on the job than in previous years with the introduction of Fire Resistant (FR) uniforms which are HRC2 (Hazard Risk Category 2) rated. This means that persons wearing such clothing are protected from hazards from arc/flash incidents. Before April 15, 2015 persons were allowed to wear clothing made of 100% cotton or other non-melting, natural fibre. However, it was found that even when the flame was removed, the clothes still continued to burn. These natural fibres were in the “Hazard/Risk Category (HRC) 0”. Both the USA and Canada changed their health and safety regulations in 2015, and deleted this “HRC 0” class of clothing. To comply with OSHA 1910.269 regulations (USA) and CSA Z462-15 (Canada), utility companies like BL&P had to issue employees, who could be exposed to flame from electric arcs, with flame retardant clothing. Since that clothing had to meet specific standards (ASTM 1959, ASTM 1506-10A), the title given to this class of clothing was “Arc Rated” clothing. Note that all Arc Rated clothing is flame retardant, but not all flame retardant clothing is Arc Rated.

The amount of heat that can be withstood by the uniforms ranges from 8 to 25 calories per square centimeter (cal/cm²). To give a better understanding of the level of protection given, 1 cal/cm2 has the same effect as holding one’s finger one centimeter above the flame of a cigarette lighter for one second. Second degree burns can occur at 1.2 cal/cm2. HRC2 rated garments are considered daily wear, to provide protection against arcs that might occur during routine work. Any injuries received should be 1st degree or none at all. The team demonstrated the difference between the “arc rated” uniforms and those issued previously. A shirt made of a polyester-cotton blend was burnt with a blow torch. Within approximately 36 seconds the entire front of the shirt was destroyed. In comparison, when the new shirt made with the fire resistant fibers was burnt, the flame self  extinguished leaving only surface scorch marks.

(Source:The Barbados Light & Power Company Ltd. Watts New Business Newsletter, www.blpc.com.bb)

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