It's been almost four years since the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published its final rule on electric power generation, transmission and distribution work practices that addressed apparel worn by employees when working on or near energized conductors or live parts. In part, the general industry standard (29 CFR 1910.269) states, "each employee who is exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury that would be sustained by the employee."

In an effort to compare protective apparel programs that have been implemented across the U.S., T&D World requested several utilities to submit summaries detailing the rules and procedures of its clothing program. The summaries reveal that programs differ widely from utility to utility. Some utilities determined that the use of 100% natural fiber clothing is acceptable. Other utilities accept the use of flame-resistant treated natural fiber clothing. And still others stipulate only the use of flame-resistant synthetic fiber clothing.

Protective clothing should provide adequate insulation value to retard heat transfer to the skin, and provide resistance to the break-open forces generated by an initial shock wave. OSHA's performance-oriented language places responsibility on employers to assess exposure hazards on their systems, determine appropriate worker apparel requirements, train employees on proper use of the material and audit and enforce compliance.

Worker comfort is a big issue to address. The fabric's weight, its moisture absorbent properties, how well it breathes, and its feel attribute to the garment's overall comfort. Many utilities implemented, or are in the process of implementing, trial wear programs so employees can offer feedback as to the comfort level afforded by the various garments available on the market. This is especially evident in the South, where heat plays a major factor in worker productivity.

Northeast Utilities The fire-resistant (FR) clothing program at Northeast Utilities (NU), Berlin, Connecticut, U.S., was developed by a cross functional committee led by the Environmental, Health and Safety Department. The committee received its charge from Dennis Welch, vice president of Environmental, Health and Safety. Welch stated, "Our employees are NU's most valuable asset and this committee must develop an FR program that will ensure our employees are not exposed to further injury just because of the clothes they wear." To this end, the committee researched various fire-resistant fabrics, evaluated NU system fault currents, and defined employee exposures. The end result of this effort is a comprehensive FR clothing program that has been developed for 2400 employees exposed to the hazards of electrical arcs and flames.

The NU FR program consists of a five-year lease program of aramid fiber garments for electrical employees. The employees are categorized into either "constant use" (i.e. line workers, electricians, splicers) or "occasional use" (i.e. supervisors, field technicians, engineers) employees. All employees must wear full body FR garments when working on exposed, energized parts. These employees are assigned one or two coveralls and/or a winter jacket. Constant use employees are given an allotment of 100 points to select their garments (i.e. shirts, pants, coveralls, insulated bib overalls, and winter jackets). The typical garment selection for 100 points is three sets of shirts and pants, two coveralls, and a winter jacket. Employees can mix and match items selected from a vendor-supplied catalog. Most aramid fiber garments are laundered by the employee. In addition to full body FR garments, NU continues to use switching jackets or aramid fiber head socks for switching operations. All garment repair and servicing is included in the lease program.

Salt River Project Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement & Power District (SRP), Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., uses live-line insulated tools that place workers at a minimum of 3 ft (.92 m) from all energized lines and parts of equipment energized at 5000 V and greater. Its distribution system has a relatively low available fault current. These two facts led SRP to recommend 100% natural fiber clothing for all electrical trades.

At SRP, the qualified worker decides the proper weight of natural fiber to be used in various work situations. All work crews have been trained to understand that heavier weights of natural fiber provide additional protection from electrical arc flashover; however, in certain applications where, in the estimation of a qualified worker, there could be a potential for electrical arc flashover, the individual may choose to don flame-resistant overalls. Two areas of special concern include underground electrical vaults or manholes (enclosed spaces) or when racking out 4160 V breakers in switchgear rooms at generating stations.

SRP does not have a company-sponsored uniform program.

Tennessee Valley Authority The Tennessee Valley Authority's Transmission/Power Supply Group (TPS), Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S., investigated clothing fabric on the market that would not ignite nor continue to burn when exposed to a high energy electrical arc. TPS evaluated clothing made from heavy weight natural fibers, flame-resistant treated natural fibers, and flame-resistant synthetic fibers. Clothing made from flame-resistant synthetic fibers was selected as the product that met the requirements for protection, appearanceand comfort. The clothing is purchased directly from the clothing manufacturer. TPS adopted a policy of providing flame-resistant clothing to personnel who work in operations, maintenance and construction on the electric transmission system. TPS does not perform distribution work. About 900 employees are included in the program. For operations and maintenance employees, TPS provides either shirt and pants or coveralls. A winter jacket with a removable vest-liner and insulated bib coveralls are provided for cold weather. In transmission construction, switching jackets are used. All the garments have long sleeves.

Employees are trained on the hazards of exposure to high-energy electrical arcs, when flame resistant clothing must be worn and how to care for the clothing. Operations and maintenance employees are asked to launder their garments at home. The switching jackets used by construction personnel are maintained by TPS.

The program has now been in place for more than two years. There has not been an accident involving an electrical arc during this period. The best opportunity for further improvement is the development and marketing of a new fabric that provides a high level of protection as well as comfort in the hot and humid summer months in the southeast.

Florida Power & Light Co. Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL), Juno Beach, Florida, U.S., implemented fire-resistant clothing work rules in the first quarter of 1995 for employees working in the Power Delivery and Distribution business units. The company provides each employee exposed to open flame or arcs associated with energized electrical equipment with two OSHA-compliant shirts each year. The shirts must be acquired from an approved FPL vendor. The employee is responsible for supplying and wearing his/her own OSHA compliant pants and is expected to be in compliance whenever working.

For work on energized equipment, switching and grounding in the Power Generation business unit and the Nuclear Division, the company furnishes OSHA-approved, flame-retardant clothing for the employees to wear as prescribed by FPL's Joint Safety Committee.

Western Area Power Administration Compliance with OSHA's apparel standard is being addressed by Western Area Power Administration's (Western), Golden, Colorado, U.S., internal offices of Safety, Maintenance, and Engineering. Currently, Western allows employees to wear natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, or silk--or other fabrics that are marked as flame resistant--when exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs. When the utility's program is fully implemented, its apparel program will depend on specific system conditions and maintenance practices to which the worker is exposed.

The new apparel standard at Western will be based on factors such as when, where, and how much exposure exists to arc flashes under certain work conditions. Issues to address include: - Specific maintenance procedures where exposure to arc flashes are not removed through existing engineering or administrative controls. - Specific operating conditions of the system that would affect the level of exposure, such as a single line-to-ground fault with the system running under steady-state conditions.

For the conditions identified above, Western will determine a level of exposure and compare it to what is considered an acceptable protection level. Then Western will analyze various options before choosing the safest and most cost-effective method to reduce the exposure to an acceptable level.

WAPA personnel options are: - Utilize FR clothing when working on certain areas of the system. - Require only de-energized work for particular parts of the system - Modify the maintenance procedure to reduce exposure to acceptable levels.

Western's program should be fully implemented by the end of October 1997.

Kansas City Power & Light Co. Kansas City Power & Light Co.'s (KCPL), Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., wearing apparel work rules require that: - Employees who are exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs shall not wear clothing that could increase the risk of injury. - Employees exposed to, or performing work on parts energized over 50 V, shall wear clothing made from 100% natural fibers such as cotton or wool or fire-resistant material, and 1) The shirt or jumper shall be worn with full sleeves down and secured around the wrist, and 2) Pants shall be full length. - Employees exposed to or performing work on line or equipment energized at or above 600 V shall wear a shirt or jumper made of either treated or fire-resistant material. Note: Clothing made from acetate, nylon, polyester or rayon, either alone or in blends, shall not be worn. - Employees racking in or racking out a protector shall wear fire-retardant clothing and a safety face shield and hood. A safety lifeline shall be worn and shall be attended outside the vault.

As part of its protective apparel program, KCPL specifies a 4.5 oz (127.6 g), 100% aramid fiber shirt for all linemen and 6 oz (170.1 g) aramid fiber coveralls for employees in the Underground Department. Substation employees use a switching coat, along with a switching hood and face shield, that are made of 100% aramid fibers.

KCPL furnishes each lineman with four aramid fiber shirts and replaces them as they wear out. The utility also replaces the switching coat, hood and coveralls as needed.

In response to OSHA's 1994 rule making directives, Duquesne Light Co., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., established work teams to review the new regulations, evaluate their impact on operations and recommend appropriate actions for compliance. In the T&D business unit (which includes substation employees), this task was assigned to a newly formed Safety Coordination Team (SCT), which immediately began addressing the issues raised by Standard 1910.269 (l)(6).

As a first step, workers were instructed to remove or cover conductive articles when working on or within reach of exposed energized parts of lines or equipment, and to not wear clothing made of fabrics prohibited by the regulation. At the same time, the SCT analyzed the degree of exposure to electric arcs and/or flame for each of the job classifications of the T&D business unit. This evaluation concluded that some workers were exposed to hazards on a daily basis, while others were infrequently exposed to these hazards.

As part of its research, the SCT obtained data from fabric and garment manufacturers about the protective characteristics of FR apparel, examined results of flame and electric arc testing (some SCT members participated in and witnessed tests performed at Ontario-Hydro), and surveyed counterparts at other utilities. Based on this analysis and familiarity with the types of conditions on Duquesne's power-delivery system, the SCT concluded that workers in the T&D business unit would be best protected by garments made of aramid fibers. Treated cotton was not regarded as an option due to published information about its poor resistance to an arc's break-open forces, uncertainty about the effects of laundering on the FR properties of a garment, and its relatively short life span (as experienced by Duquesne's operations personnel). At this point, sample garments of aramid fibers were obtained from a number of vendors and launderers and were issued to union workers who volunteered to test the wearability of the clothing.

As the trial wear program progressed, Duquesne managers held discussions with union (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) representatives about implementing a protective clothing program. During negotiations a list of preferred garments was compiled. Using this list, the SCT developed specifications for the selected apparel and obtained pricing information for direct purchase, lease and rental options. Ultimately, this cooperative effort resulted in ratification of an agreement whereby the utility would reimburse workers (up to an agreed limit) for the purchase, rental and/or lease of selected apparel through a local national laundry service franchise. The company/union protective clothing pact is in effect throughthe year 2001 (which coincides with expiration of the current labor agreement).