Arc flash clothing, or more commonly known in the industry as flame resistant clothing, is essential to keep electrical workers safe from injury and death. OSHA statistics demonstrate that five to 10 times each and every day, an electrical worker somewhere in the North America is either injured or killed as a result of being caught in an arc flash accident. These injuries and deaths from these electrical explosions devaste the lives of electrical workers and their families. Had these electrical workers been wearing the correct level of arc flash clothing protection, the number of injuries and deaths might have been much less.
Arc Flash Clothing and NFPA 70e
Arc Flash Clothing Defined by NFPA 70e - OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 (1)(6)(iii) states: “The employer shall ensure that each employee who is exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury that would be sustained by the employee. Clothing selected for a particular application shall have an arc thermal performance value of (EBT or ATPV) higher than the potential hazard to prevent the onset of 2nd degree burns.
Different Types of Arc Flash Clothing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
1. Grounding equipment
2. Hot sticks
3. Rubber gloves, sleeves, and leather protectors
4. Test instruments
5. Blanket and similar insulating equipment
6. Insulating mats and similar insulating equipment
7. Protective barriers
8. External circuit breaker rack-out devices
9. Portable lighting units
10. Temporary protective grounding equipment
11. Dielectric footwear
12. Protective clothing
13. Bypass jumpers
14. Insulated and insulating hand tools
Inspecting your PPE
It’s important to regularly inspect your arc flash apparel for signs of wear and damage, small cuts or tears. In the event that damage is found, either repair it in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications (special flame-resistant fabric patches and/or thread may be required) or replace the damaged article of clothing immediately.
Maintaining Electrical Gloves
Check for embedded materials. Before each wearing, roll gloves between your hands to feel for embedded particles. If any are found, have your gloves electrically tested to see if they’re still safe to use.
Keep them clean. Wash them off with tap water and a mild, bleach-free detergent to get rid of anything that’s not supposed to be there. Follow that with a thorough (but gentle) drying with a clean cloth.
Air test shock protection gloves before every wear. To air test a shock protection glove, simply hold the gauntlet (sleeve) end of it closed, trapping air inside. Then tightly roll the closed end downward, toward the fingers. If no air leaks out, the glove is free from holes.
Arc rating (AR) is the value attributed to materials that describe their performance to exposure to an electrical arc discharge. Arc-rated clothing or equipment indicated that has been tested for exposure to an electric arc.
Flame resistant (FR) clothing without an arc rating has not been tested for exposure to an electric arc. All arc-rated clothing is also flame-resistant.
Arc Flash Suit
Arc Flash Suit: A complete arc-rated clothing and equipment system that covers the entire body, except for the hands and feet. An arc flash suit may include pants or overalls, a jacket or a coverall, and a beekeeper-type hood fitted with a face shield.
Note: Not all flame resistant (FR) clothing has an arc rating.
Arc Flash Clothing Selection
Layering: Non-melting, flammable fiber garments shall be permitted to be used in conjunction with arc rated clothing in a layered system.
Outer Layers: Garments worn as outer layers (jackets rainwear) shall also be made from arc rated materials.
Underlayers: Meltable fibers (acetate, nylon, polyester, spandex polypropylene, etc.) shall not be permitted in fabric underlayers (underwear) next to the skin.
An incidental amount of elastic in these fabrics is acceptable.