Understanding PPE categories

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Understanding PPE categories

Whether to wear arc-rated personal protection equipment (PPE) is not a personal decision. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directs employers to supply PPE and for employees to wear the supplied PPE if hazards exist. A hazard/risk analysis can indicate whether such PPE is needed. The analysis also needs to be documented.

PPE is a combination of protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment to protect eyes, head, breathing, and the full body from splashes, vapors, loose objects, and chemical penetration through personal clothing. The level of protection depends on the level of exposure in the working environment.

Personal Protective Equipment categories
Always abide by the limits of use and minimum working distance. The following PPE categories are described by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 70E. The greater the electrical hazard, the higher the personal protective equipment arc rating must be to withstand an arc-flash incident. Please note that the following chart is a summary only. For a complete list of NFPA standards see NFPA 70E Table 130.7( C)(16)

PPE CATEGORY 1

  1. Panelboards or other equipment rated 240 V ac and below
  2. Storage batteries, dc switchboards and other dc supply sources

Arc-rated clothing (minimum of 4 cal/cm2)

  • Arc-rated long sleeve shirt and pants or coverall
  • Arc-rated face shield or arc flash suit hood
  • Arc rated jacket, parka, rainwear or hard hat liner

Protective equipment

  • Hard hat
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Hearing protection (ear canal inserts)
  • Heavy duty leather gloves
  • Leather footwear
  • No metal-framed eyeglasses, cell phones, or radios, jewelry, rings, keys or watches
  • Insulated hand tools

PPE CATEGORY 2

  1. Panelboards or other equipment rated >240 V ac to 600 V ac
  2. Other 600 V ac class (277V through 600 , nominal) equipment
  3. 600V ac class motor control centers
  4. Storage batteries, dc switchboards, and other dc supply sources

Arc-rated clothing (minimum of 8 cal/ cm2), including:

  • Arc-rated long sleeve shirt and pants or arc-rated coverall
  • Arc-rated face shield or arc flash suit hood and arc-rated balaclava
  • Arc rated jacket, parka, rainwear or hard hat liner

Protective equipment

  • Hard hat
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Hearing protection (ear canal inserts)
  • Heavy duty leather gloves
  • Leather footwear
  • No metal-framed eyeglasses, cell phones, or radios, jewelry, rings, keys or watches
  • Insulated hand tools

PPE CATEGORY 3

  1. Storage batteries, dc switchboards, and other dc supply sources
  2. 100V dc to 250V dc, 7kA<= short circuit current <15kA
  3. 250V dc to 600V dc, 3kA<=short-circuit current<7kA
  4. Max arc duration: 2 seconds
  5. Min working distance: 18 inches

Arc-rated clothing (minimum of 25 cal/ cm2), including:

  • Arc-rated long sleeve shirt
  • Arc-rated pants
  • Arc-rated coverall
  • Arc-rated arc flash suit jacket
  • Arc-rated arc flash suit pants
  • Arc-rated arc flash suit hood
  • Arc-rated arc flash gloves
  • Arc-rated jacket, parka. rainwear or hard hat liner

Protective equipment

  • Hard hat
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Hearing protection (ear canal inserts)
  • Heavy duty leather gloves
  • Leather footwear
  • No metal-framed eyeglasses, cell phones, or radios, jewelry, rings, keys or watches
  • Insulated hand tools

PPE CATEGORY 4

  1. 600 V class motor control centers
  2. 600 V class switchgear (with power circuit breakers or fused switches) and 600 V class switchboards
  3. NEMA E2 motor starters, 2.3kV through 7.2 kV
  4. Metal-clad switchgear, 1kV through 7.2kV
  5. Other equipment 1kV through 15kV
  6. Storage batteries, dc switchboards, and other dc supply sources

Arc-rated clothing (minimum of 40 cal/ cm2)

  • Arc-rated long sleeve shirt
  • Arc-rated pants
  • Arc-rated coverall
  • Arc-rated arc flash suit jacket
  • Arc-rated arc flash suit pants
  • Arc-rated arc flash suit hood
  • Arc-rated arc flash gloves
  • Arc-rated jacket, parka. rainwear or hard hat liner

Protective equipment

  • Hard hat
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Hearing protection (ear canal inserts)
  • Heavy duty leather gloves
  • Leather footwear
  • No metal-framed eyeglasses, cell phones, or radios, jewelry, rings, keys or watches
  • Insulated hand tools

As the PPE categories increase, so do the arc-rating clothing requirements. The lists may seem similar in some cases, but the variances between categories are significant.

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

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