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Employer won't provide arc flash PPE

2272 Views 41 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  superdeez
Like the title says, working for a municipality that expects me to work hot in big old switchgear from the 1970s and won't provide arc flash protection.

There is a suit available to me, but it is meant for a much smaller individual. This hasn't come to a head--yet, but any other place I've been expected to work on stuff that could really go boom there's at least been a jumpsuit and the orange face shield available.

Would it be best to buy my own gear, refuse to work in gear with potential for a big arc or just find another employer?
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· Banned
Commercial/Industrial and Service work
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Like the title says, working for a municipality that expects me to work hot in big old switchgear from the 1970s and won't provide arc flash protection.

There is a suit available to me, but it is meant for a much smaller individual. This hasn't come to a head--yet, but any other place I've been expected to work on stuff that could really go boom there's at least been a jumpsuit and the orange face shield available.

Would it be best to buy my own gear, refuse to work in gear with potential for a big arc or just find another employer?
Just call the utility every time to kill it at the pole until they get you a suit. Trust me it’s. It fun when 4160 blows on you
 

· Homer to Jebus
Electron Flow Consultant
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Like the title says, working for a municipality that expects me to work hot in big old switchgear from the 1970s and won't provide arc flash protection.

There is a suit available to me, but it is meant for a much smaller individual. This hasn't come to a head--yet, but any other place I've been expected to work on stuff that could really go boom there's at least been a jumpsuit and the orange face shield available.

Would it be best to buy my own gear, refuse to work in gear with potential for a big arc or just find another employer?
I'd say find another employer. State or Fed OSHA would require them to provide the gear.
 

· Chief Flunky
Field Service Engineer
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Like the title says, working for a municipality that expects me to work hot in big old switchgear from the 1970s and won't provide arc flash protection.

There is a suit available to me, but it is meant for a much smaller individual. This hasn't come to a head--yet, but any other place I've been expected to work on stuff that could really go boom there's at least been a jumpsuit and the orange face shield available.

Would it be best to buy my own gear, refuse to work in gear with potential for a big arc or just find another employer?
My employer has this stuff but is pretty flexible.

My insulated winter overalls and jacket are 40 cal. So I just need the hood and gloves.
 

· Banned
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You’d be surprised. Municipal governments are pretty far behind.
Go to a lawyer. Get a LETTER registered and sent to the appropriate entity "Dear ___ It is my client's understanding you resist/refuse to comply with current satandard lawful and lawfully required employee safety protocol and provide my client (Et Al: John Done, your "employee of record" with proper safety PPE as required by OSHA and federal law?" Please respond by ____-.

Until then, my client remains in your employ, awaiting a n amicable resolution.
 

· Registered
Power distribution and controls
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You work for a municipality so that means they have a safety and HR departments.

Both of which when contacted could get you fired. Does this place have a set of procedures written down? Are you being asked to break procedures?

I am assuming that there are no arc flash studies done so you do not have a clue what you are working on.

Switch gear from the 70's I would be asking for the remote control equipment so you do not have tot be in front of it.

If you do not feel safe do not do it.

I had a manager once tell me to throw a S&C 15Kv air switch. We did not have the correct fuses so manger instructed the crew to put bigger fuses in. Not that much bigger 10 amps.
I refused to operate the switch so I took off my personal lock and cleared the area, Manager threw the switch which immediately faulted. I was 30 feet away and watched the stunned man back up into a wall at speed. The supervisor of the plant came out of his office because the plant was now dark, This action had tripped 3 circuit breakers on that bus. I was told to fix the problem and I told manager dude to get out of the building. He refused. The building supervisor told him to leave, he refused. building supervisor called the police. He left.
S&C builds some good stuff. Took the fault and the door held, glass in the door held.
Took us 8 hours of splitting the busing to the faulted cabinet and cleaning up the arc flash.
Finally got it back together and returned operation to the chillers in the plant. It took a week for the system to recover to the temps we had before the accident.
I was given a reprimand for my actions. I had been verbally abusive. I was told that in 6 months the reprimand would be removed. 3 years later when I quit it was brought up again.
I got up and walked out telling my boss I should have quit on the spot.

Be very careful what you do. Management has a bad habit of not being your freind when they are in the wrong. Might be time to look for another job and when you get close ask for a substantial raise. Safety and HR are there to protect management and the company not you my friend.
 

· Registered
Electrical contractor 37 years. Electrical inspector 2 years
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PPE is always the last resort. There are five steps to take before it. Once you have the proper PPE you need training and education on when and how to use it. I get a kick out of companies that claim to have a documented safety program but never send the men out for training.
 

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When FR first came on the scene, I called Minnesota OSHA about employer’s providing it. I was told the rule was written different than say ear, eye or respiratory protection. The employer was to insure employees wore the correct PPE. Things have changed over the decades. I believe OSHA has changed the language and your employer may be behind the times. Here is an article on this topic.

 

· Registered
442A -Industrial Electrician's ticket since '93
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Check your local/state legislation. Here in Ontario, Canada, I have the right to refuse the unsafe work. The catch, though, is that legislation also says appropriate PPE will be available for the task. It does not say the PPE is bought and paid for by the employer/company. For example, my current employer has provided me with cat. 2 uniforms, rubber/leather gloves, helmet and faceshield. I am on the hook for their replacement should they not be returned when I cease being an employee.
 

· Hackenschmidt
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If they are in violation of OSHA regulations, you can report them and refuse the work. There are whistleblower laws that prohibit them from firing you in retaliation. They might violate those laws and fire you anyway for blowing the whistle or for refusing unsafe non-compliant work. If they do, you could get a lawyer and pursue a wrongful termination suit. Depending where you are, municipalities get sued all the time and lose a lot and pay substantial settlements. Juries are not too sympathetic to municipalities. The bureaucrats that work for the city / township / borough don't care that much, it's not their money.

Municipalities often don't have a real squared away HR department that tells them how to do things without getting sued. If pushed, the municipality could decide to just outsource work on that switchgear to contractors and pay whatever OSHA fines they have to for work done to date. If they do that, they might decide they can get rid of one electrician to offset that cost - that might be you. That might cost them much more, but government employess couldn't possibly care less. So you'd be out of a job and no lucrative lawsuit to pursue. Then six months later they might decide to restructure their maintenance department, bring that work back in house, and hire someone for a slightly different position - one that you're not qualified for, but their cousin just so happens to be a perfect fit.

Go to a lawyer. Get a LETTER registered and sent to the appropriate entity
You might want to consult with a lawyer in advance in case they take retaliatory action. The lawyer can advise you about dotting your i's and crossing your t's when you refuse work so that you have a a strong case in case they do fire you in retaliation. You can also have the lawyer contact them in writing as @LGLS said above. Sometimes people will clean up their act when you shine a light on things. If they know there's a lawyer involved, they know there's a chance they may have the headache of defending a lawsuit, even if the money doesn't come out of their pocket. They may very well decide that buying an arc flash suit to shut you up is less trouble and again, not their money.

Also very important, the lawyer can advise you if push comes to shove and you sue them, what it would cost you to pursue this kind of lawsuit, what your odds are of winning, how much you'd stand to win, and how long it would take before you see your money. The municipality's (or their insurance company) could offer a very small settlement and if you don't settle, drag out your case as long as they can.

If you get fired, right or wrong, win or lose, the next day you'll have to find another job and explain to prospective employers that you were fired for refusing unsafe work.

A lot of small government bureaucrats are good at getting rid of people they don't like without firing them and without getting themselves in trouble. Just doing whatever they can to make sure your job is as miserable as possible. Be prepared to get called in on Thanksgiving for bullshit, getting the worst truck, getting the worst jobs, getting no overtime, etc.

All that said, this is the most important thing:

First and foremost, if you don't feel safe, refuse the work.
 

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Like the title says, working for a municipality that expects me to work hot in big old switchgear from the 1970s and won't provide arc flash protection.

There is a suit available to me, but it is meant for a much smaller individual. This hasn't come to a head--yet, but any other place I've been expected to work on stuff that could really go boom there's at least been a jumpsuit and the orange face shield available.

Would it be best to buy my own gear, refuse to work in gear with potential for a big arc or just find another employer?
i had the opposite problem at my municipality. the only suit was like a 4X and i swam in it. i bitched enough that they finally got me an appropriate one. just remind them how bad its gonna be if you fry on the job due to their not providing the PPE you require to be safe
 

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like splatz said .... find another job .... today, go home sick if necessary but do it today

legally you should not be in this position, but realistically your are

leave today .... or you will be fired eventually, or worse you will be dead if you give in and do it

somebody will die working that gear hot
 

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Awww f it man... go in without PPE and bring a sect5ion of chain link fence with ya, toss it onto the hot gear and get it overwith.
 

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In my mind there is more going on other than a grand in PPE protective equipment.

Without a arc flash study you do not know if a 40 cal suit will even protect you.

I worked places where there is no FR clothing made that can protect life. I do not mean K aic I mean M aic. The place were it was M aic for certain situations we had to get the power company to put us on one transformer before operating any large load. Some of the breakers were running about 900 amps at 15kv. Need to be a block away when they tripped.

Yes the PPE is an issue but with out the documentation you may be walking into a gun fight with out even a knife.

Do you wear electrical hazard boots? If your not why not?
 
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