Employees working on energized conductors or circuits run the risk of serious or even fatal injury, such as electrocution. Wearing heavy cotton clothing can help protect workers, because heavy cotton clothes don’t ignite as fast as clothing made from other fabrics. Flame-retardant cotton is even better.
The National Fire Protection Association developed a voluntary standard, called NFPA 70E, to protect workers from common dangers associated with electricity. OSHA fines companies that don’t adhere to it because NFPA 70E is considered an accepted industry standard.
The NFPA 70E standard says employees at risk of a second-degree burn or worse when exposed to an arc flash must wear flame-resistant protective clothing. Flame-resistant clothing is rated for protection from electric arcs so employers and workers can match the clothing to the correct hazard level. The arc thermal performance value appears on the label of all flame-resistant protective apparel.
The standard for personal protective clothing used to be 100 percent cotton because it provides better protection than polyester. However, testing proved that flame-retardant clothing worked better than cotton to protect workers from injury. Flame-retardant clothing can be treated 100 percent cotton or treated cotton and nylon blends. OSHA doesn’t allow pure or blended acetate, nylon, polyester or rayon to be used in untreated protective clothing because they’re too flammable.