Arc flash safety and thermal imaging PPE

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Arc flash safety and thermal imaging PPE

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace has come a long way with regard to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for thermographers (people using infrared cameras).

In the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E, the drafting committee decided that if the person removing the panel covers wore full arc-rated clothing and PPE, the thermographer could elect to not wear arc-rated clothing and PPE if:

Task Equipment Condition Arc Flash PPE Required
Removal of battery intercell connector covers All of the following:
The equipment is properly installed
  The equipment is properly maintained Covers for all other equipment are in place and secured. There is no evidence of impending failure.  
  One or more of the following:
The equipment is not properly installed
The equipment is not properly maintained
Equipment doors are open or not secured
Equipment covers are off or not secured
There is evidence of impending failure
Opening hinged door(s) or cover(s) (to expose bare energized electrical conductors and circuit parts) Any Yes
Perform infrared thermography and other noncontact inspections outside the restricted approach boundary. This activity does not include opening of doors or covers. Any No
Figure 2
NFPA 70E Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a), Partial
Courtesy of National Fire Protection Association


Here are a few more important points to know about the revised PPE recommendations for Thermographers:

  1. NFPA 70E represents minimum safe work practices, not best safe work practices. Any qualified person about to perform a task that exposes them to electrical hazards must perform a full risk assessment, including a shock risk assessment and an arc flash risk assessment.
  2. Once the panel covers are off, the area secured and inspected for possible hazards that may not be readily apparent, then the thermographer can enter and perform the scan, wearing appropriate PPE for that level risk.
  3. Equipment condition is a critical part of arc flash PPE assessment. As an example, see Figure 2 below, which is a partial table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a).

Also, be aware that even where the task of infrared thermography in Table 130.7 (C)(15)(A)(a) states "No PPE Required"" in any condition, technicians cannot knowingly put themselves at risk, which is why the risk assessment is so critical.

Whether to wear arc-rated clothing and PPE for infrared thermography may in some cases now be a personal decision. Be aware that OSHA directs employers to supply required PPE and for employees to wear the supplied PPE, if hazards exist. A risk assessment can indicate whether such PPE is needed and the assessment needs to be properly documented.

For more information on Electrical Safety, see our online course available at the Fluke eLearning Center. 
For more information on Electrical Safety, see our online course available at the Fluke eLearning Center. 

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