To Wash or Not to Wash … That Should NOT be the Question.Blake Hirschmann
To Wash or Not to Wash ...
... That Should NOT be the Question.
“How should we be washing and caring for our arc-rated PPE?” is a question that I am asked frequently when working with companies on electrical safety issues across the country. The answer to that question has changed a bit, as we continue to deal with the effects of Covid-19.
The one common notion in almost all of these discussions is that arc-rated clothing is hardly being laundered. It was the same with at most recent visit, where they said they have never washed their arc-rated coveralls, ever.
Initially, my thought was how unsanitary this lack of laundering is. But when you really think about it, it almost makes sense. Most workers are in and out of the clothing quickly. Some only use the clothing a handful of times a year, so how can it get dirty?
This situation is similar to how we all probably deal with our winter coats. We wear them when the weather turns cold and then when it warms up, we put them away and don’t think about them until the next cold season.
Therefore, the question is, “Does it really matter if the clothing is not laundered?” This question today is much easier to answer than in previous years. As we are still in the throes of dealing with Covid-19 and as fall and winter are quickly approaching our stance on laundering arc-rated clothing must be: Launder it, after every use!
Covid-19 has caused a major shift in arc-rated personal protective equipment (PPE) use, as it has made the practice of sharing PPE obsolete. To help prevent the spread of the virus, workers and employers no longer want coveralls or hoods to be shared. Many are adopting the practice of purchasing individual sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) for each individual worker. That is a change in the industry that will continue going forward and become the norm.
The CDC’s recommendation is that washing with soap and warm water is the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Disinfecting, the CDC goes on to say, should be done by following the manufacturers care instructions and wash the clothing in as hot of water as appropriate for the garments.
For all Oberon garments, the care instructions are sewn into the garments on the label as well as listed on our resources Page at www.oberoncompany.com/resources/clean-arc-flash-suit/. One thing to be clear – even though you may wash at a high temperature, washing alone, may not disinfects the clothes and rids them of germs.
To be confident your personal protective equipment (PPE) is disinfected, you may need to use additional steps. The fabric portion of a suit is very porous. This creates a very challenging proposition, when it comes to disinfection. One method currently available is to turn the suit inside out and spray with an approved disinfectant on the inside of the hood and suit. While this will not kill 100% of all bacteria and viruses, it is one of the best defenses currently available. When spraying the inside of the suit and hood, be careful not to get any spray on the outside of the suit. It is also very important to let the suit dry completely before putting it back into service.
The first step to cleaning and disinfecting an Oberon TCG™ face shield is to disassemble your hood. Once done, if the shield has dirt or grit, flush it off with room temperature tap water. The next step to disinfecting a TCG™ face shield is to take a soft cloth with isopropyl alcohol or use a Lysol® wipe and gently clean both sides of the shield. This process may leave streaks as the surface dries. Once dry, use a soft, clean cloth and lightly wipe off any streaks or film left on the shield from impurities in the wipes.
The bottom line here is this: Arc-Rated PPE is your line of defense from the arc flash hazards in your environment and regular washing and disinfecting are your line of defense in the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Regular washing of the garments is essential to assist in protecting workers from the virus. As importantly, it will help the clothes last and perform in protecting workers from the hazards of an arc flash.
To Wash or Not to Wash…is NOT the Question. The answer is to wash and disinfect your arc-rated PPE regularly.
Masters Compliance Consulting | Arc Flash Safety Training and Assessment www.masterscompliance.com | 855-ARC-TRNR