According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the average annual fatality rate for power line workers is 56 deaths per 100,000 employees. To keep workers safe, there are several personal protective equipment (PPE) items that should be utilized in the field. One of the most important lines of defense is rubber goods.
The risk of injury, and even death, from electric shock is drastically reduced by taking a few simple steps with your rubber goods. Keep up with daily inspections and cleaning, use safe storage methods, and safety test your equipment regularly at an experienced, accredited testing lab.
Learn why rubber goods are so important to worker safety and how to ensure that your equipment is ready for any situation.
Why Rubber Goods?
Rubber goods can include gloves, sleeves, boots, blankets, line hose, and more. These are key PPE in preventing electrical current from entering your body and causing injury or death. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires rubber goods to be worn when workers are within close proximity to electrical equipment. OSHA upholds and enforces the way electrical work can be performed based on the standards issued by the ASTM F18 Committee. This committee is made up of experts in the electrical industry who set national standards and guidelines.
Getting Up to Code
Complying with ASTM standards, in addition to regular care and maintenance, reduces the risk of injury in the field. Better yet, it makes users and their companies OSHA compliant. This keeps workers safe and reduces the risk of an OSHA fine. In addition to daily inspection, proper storage, and care, rubber goods should be sent to a top-quality, NAIL for PET-accredited rubber testing facility. At these facilities, equipment is tested and recertificated to stay compliant with ASTM standards (ASTM 478-09, 7.1, F479-06, 8.1.1, and F496-08, 7.1).
ASTM F496, 7.1 states that rubber gloves should be electrically tested before their first use and every six months after. Sleeves, line hose, blankets and hoods have their own specific testing cycles. Cycle dates are determined by the end user, but maximum testing intervals are mandated by ASTM. All ASTM codes are available online for review.
“It costs a little more, but you would hate to have something happen in the field … something that could have been avoided.” – Supply Manager, Wisconsin
Testing in Six Steps
Maintaining a safe work environment starts with having the right equipment and processes in place. Attention to detail and quality control should be a top priority when selecting rubber goods. Outsourcing rubber goods testing can provide convenience and ease of mind. High-quality testing of rubber goods consists of:
- Visual inspection
- Electrical testing
- Date stamping
Let’s discuss each of these testing methods in more detail:
A NAIL for PET-accredited test lab handles cleaning the outside and inside of all rubber goods. The lab removes old stamps and dirt. Goods then dry completely before going on to a visual test that is performed by a trained inspector (ASTM 1236-96). Properly cleaning rubber goods removes conductive and compromising dirt and oil, while allowing for the best visual inspection.
While rubber goods may look safe, inflation or rolling of rubber goods can reveal hidden damage. During visual inspection of gloves and sleeves, the rubber is inflated, inspected, turned inside-out, inflated and inspected once again. Blankets are carefully rolled and scanned on both sides. Line hoses are opened up and then rolled.
Inflation and rolling allow for a better scan of the rubber. It also exposes physical imperfections. If there are any scratches, punctures, or cracking in the rubber, it doesn’t pass visual inspection and won’t move on to the next step.
Electrical testing of rubber consists of exposing the rubber to an electrical voltage. The amount of voltage is based on the rubber’s class (ASTM F496: Section 7). Rubber is electrically tested beyond its maximum field use to make sure that it can withstand the electrical stress it will be subjected to while in use.
If an electrical failure occurs, a hole will burn through the rubber. The item is then stamped as a failure because it is unfit for electrical use.
Certification, Date Stamping, Packing and Shipping
After the rubber passes the visual and electrical testing, it is then certified with a date stamp. This stamp includes either the date of the test or the expiration date, the voltage the PPE was tested up to, and the name of the testing facility. Special ink is used for the stamping. It’s safe for use on rubber and won’t fade or wipe off during normal use.
Once the stamps have dried, gloves and sleeves are dusted with 100 percent talc powder to absorb any remaining moisture (ASTM F478, F479 and F496). Gloves and sleeves are then placed in new plastic bags and heat sealed. Blankets and line hose are placed securely in plastic containers or totes. Proper care is taken to ensure that the goods are not crushed or folded when packaged. It’s recommended that plastic totes be used for shipping to provide solid protection while in transit.
Are your rubber goods keeping your employees safe?
Regular testing of rubber goods makes it easy to answer this question. Testing does more than bring your facility into compliance. It keeps employees safe from dangerous, even deadly, situations. Take a few minutes to inspect equipment so you can be properly protected from any electrical danger.