Northpower - Tower Refurbishment Blast Suit
Northpower has developed a one-piece blast suit to improve the safety and comfort of its transmission tower maintenance teams.
Tower refurbishment involves careful management of the significant risks associated with water blasting, and working at heights on a regular basis. It is also very physically challenging and fatigue management, comfort and mobility are all important.
To provide staff with the best possible personal protective equipment, Northpower set about developing a one piece garment that could stand up to wet working conditions and provide blast protection without compromising movement or breathability.
New fabric technologies were tested rigorously to ensure that they could withstand the conditions up the towers. The fabric eventually selected was a three-layer laminate that is waterproof, abrasion resistant, anti-static and electric arc protected. It also retains warmth in cold weather.
Northpower worked in collaboration with Swazi to create the best product possible. Having gone through several development trials with various suppliers, it was Swazi who stood out as a supply partner with the expertise and motivation to work to Northpower’s needs.
Not only did Swazi act on employee feedback from Northpower, it also assisted with more rigorous blasting trials, pushing the product to its extreme limits.
There resulting improvements were obvious.
The blast suit weighs 2.3 kg compared to the original four-piece suits which weighed 15-25 kg. They are waterproof and breathable, and have a blast protection rating of 4000 psi and an arc flash rating of 8 CAL – matching the protection of the original. The body blast protection is improved at 90 per cent, compared with 85 per cent for the original.
Not only are the suits easier to put on and get out of, they also have no loose parts or excess fabric that can get snagged on the tower. Far better comfort and mobility levels also make it easier for the employees to get into tricky positions.
These features have resulted in a much higher user rating. Fatigue has also been reduced, important to both the employees’ safety and their work performance.
Northpower says reduced fatigue has improved work performance, reduced the time spent on each tower and improved the efficiency of the refurbishment work.
The ease of wear of the blast suit has allowed for process improvements, further adding to efficiency.
The new suit is an industry first and a further refinement of cutting edge tower refurbishment PPE that is constantly being revised.
Northpower has made the suits available for tests on other electricity networks that are keen to adopt the suits due to the benefits they see.
The Innovation in Energy award category is sponsored by Gentrack