News: Testing PPE saves time, money and lives
Story by Master Sgt. David Miller
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - Mission interruption, stoppage and failure can become a quick reality without electricity. Electricity is taken for granted by many, but for 1.2 billion people in the world electricity is not an option and without electricity, members of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing can't perform. The reason lights can be turned on in a room, computers started, airmen fed and ultimately aircraft launched is because electricity is available.
When electricity goes down, 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems section is the first to receive phone calls. Airmen assigned to this section work daily to ensure that disruption is minimal if there is an electrical issue.
Tech. Sgt. Damian Davies, 379th ECES electrical systems NCO in charge, knows these calls all too well.
The 379th ECES electrical systems section responds to approximately 4,400 calls annually according to Davies.
When electricians respond to an electrical outage, they go with the tools to fix the situation while ensuring their individual safety. Personal protective equipment is the difference between life and death. One of the most important pieces of PPE are the insulating gloves.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, gloves and sleeves must be electrically tested before being issued for use. They must also be visually inspected and gloves need to be air tested for any possible defects before each day's use and whenever there is a reason to believe they may have been damaged. Best practice is to inspect PPE and air test the gloves and sleeves before each use.
Insulating equipment may not be used if any of the following defects are present: holes, tears, punctures or cuts, ozone cutting or ozone checking, embedded foreign objects, texture changes, including swelling, softening, hardening, or becoming sticky or inelastic, and any other defect that damages the insulating properties.
Davies recognized two new teammates with expertise that could save time and money for the wing while ensuring electricians had proper equipment to complete daily tasks safely.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Amby and Senior Airman Justin Henke recently arrived from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and have vast experience testing insulating gloves that come from the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility.
"Before we got here all insulating gloves from the area of responsibility were sent to Ramstein AB for testing," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Amby, 379th ECES electrical systems craftsman who hails from Lanai City, Hawaii.
"Amby and Henke have operated the testing equipment we have here and are the most familiar with the set up and testing of gloves," said Davies. "We are capitalizing on that experience to ensure we have the right equipment for our electricians."
"With increased safety measures within the last few years that transcend into the civilian sector of our electrical career field, our PPE is the biggest change and topic of discussion," said Amby.
"Whether we are replacing a light fixture in an office or restoring high voltage power lines in a storm, all it takes is one mistake to lose a life," said Amby. "This is why PPE is so important, and these electrical gloves are our first and maybe our last line of defense against electrocution."
Insulating gloves are inspected every six months or sooner if they are turned in for an inspection said Amby.
"The gloves sent to Ramstein average a month to be inspected," said Davies. "With our ability to test locally, we have reduced inspection times to hours thus saving the Air Force money."
Henke, a 379th ECES electrical systems journeyman who hails from Vicksburg, Miss., also has experience testing gloves at Ramstein AB.
"Gloves were tested in the order they were received," said Henke. "If the gloves passed it took time to get them back to the unit and if gloves failed it took time for the unit to order and receive the gloves on top of the time the gloves were waiting to be tested."
With the capability of testing locally, gloves that pass are back in the inventory and failures are taken out of the inventory immediately and new gloves are ordered the same day.
"Testing here allows us to get serviceable gloves back in the inventory immediately," said Henke. "If a glove fails we can order replacements sooner and have a better count on how many sets of serviceable gloves we have available."
The duo has tested 62 pairs of gloves with 45 pairs removed from service since testing began Dec. 23.
"Testing these gloves is important. I'm saving lives," said Henke.