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Regular Testing of Rubber Goods Prevents Serious Injuries / Is Required by ASTM Standards

Prior to 1950, sources report that 30% of all linemen were electrocuted on the job; as a result, “Lineman” has been ranked as one of the ten most dangerous jobs by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since then insulated equipment such as rubber goods, safety techniques and work standards have improved safety dramatically. But rubber gloves, sleeves, blankets, line hose and hoods require special treatment and know-how to remain in compliance with ASTM standards. Failure to meet standards puts linemen at risk and could also result in fines from OSHA (Occupational Health & Safety Administration). That’s a lot to keep track of, so how do companies manage it?

Insuring rubber equipment is up-to-date, stored properly to prevent deterioration, as well as thoroughly tested and labeled in the manner required by ASTM and regulated by OSHA is a job that commands diligence, follow through, and detailed organizational processes. Hi-Line Utility Supply Co. provides this service for clients through its unique Rubber Goods Change Out™ program, saving time, money, and improving overall safety.

The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates how people can work on high and low voltage electricity. You can read the OSHA standard 1910.137 table of contents by clicking here. OSHA’s regulations are based on the standards issued by ASTM International (Originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) an organization whose members are made up of professionals from a number of industries, including the electrical industry.

The ASTM standard for rubber goods states that rubber gloves shall be electrically tested at least once each six months by a qualified testing lab after they have been used. Sleeves must be electrically tested every twelve months. Companies and unions often shorten that time frame to better protect their workforce. For example, companies may choose to test every 30 days or 90 days, or whatever they choose within the ASTM guidelines.

The standards also state that complete records must be kept of all such tests and dates of issue.

Rubber blankets, must be electrically tested at least once each year after they are checked out for use, and complete records must be kept of all such tests and dates of issue. Rubber protective equipment not checked out for use within one year must be re-tested before being issued. But, like the standard for gloves and sleeves, many companies and unions shorten this timeframe.

ASTM has not set a mandated time standard for testing line hose and hoods. ASTM does mandate a test for line hose and hoods if there is suspected damage. Then, the products should be tested by a qualified lab that meets ASTM standards such as Hi-Line’s to test the potentially damaged goods.

The ASTM guidelines set standards as to how rubber goods must be visually inspected, and tested for any wear, tears, cracks, pin holes, or other type of compromise that could allow a current to flow through. Because linemen work with sharp tools, climb wood poles that can splinter, and handle electric cable that often has sharp burrs, it is not uncommon for rubber goods to become compromised.

For that reason, linemen use leather glove protectors: The rubber protects the worker and the leather protects the rubber. There are ASTM standards for the fit and size of leather glove protectors in relation to the glove needing protection. Hi-Line customer service representatives are well versed in these standards in order to help customers select the right product every time.

In addition to the everyday hazards linemen face, ozone also poses a threat by weakening the rubber, causing deterioration. Ozone is actually three oxygen molecules fused together, a naturally occurring atmospheric phenomenon but also caused by electricity and enhanced by warm temperatures. Activated oxygen (ozone) bounces against flat surface rubber, that is rubber with no damage. But if a rubber product develops a tear then there is more surface area for the activated oxygen to attack causing more rapid deterioriation (dry-rot), creating a domino effect from slight deterioration. This means that adequate storage is a must for all rubber goods when not in use.

Hi-Line Utility Supply offers its Rubber Goods Change-Out™ Program to help utilities and contractors manage their rubbers goods requirements. By outsourcing the work of managing and testing rubbers goods, workers can be more productive, better equipped, and better protected.

Hi-Line’s Rubber Goods Change-Out™ Program allows customers to send extra rubber goods to Hi-Line for cleaning, inspecting, replacing damaged goods, proper storage of rubber goods until the selected deadline, then testing and date-stamping prior to shipping the rubber goods back to the customer. This program keeps a constant stream of clean, safe rubber goods in service at all time so crews are always equipped to prevent down time.

Standards are in place to protect people and make industry more productive overall. Did you know that ASTM was founded more than a century ago to standardize the railroad industry at a time when many companies were building tracks and trains that were not compatible with each other? This meant that when one company’s train reached the end of its track, its cargo had to be unloaded and then reloaded onto the next train for the next stretch of track which was a different size than the first stretch: A very inefficient way to transport goods across the nation that invented the cross-country railroad system.

Standards developed at ASTM are the work of over 30,000 ASTM members. Today, these technical experts represent producers, users, consumers, government and academia from over 120 countries. Hi-Line is included in that membership and regularly sends employees to be part of the standard setting process to insure we help customers make the best choices about rubber goods and stay in compliance.

For a more detailed consultative discussion about your rubber goods purchases, care and testing, please contact a Hi-Line sales representative today.

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