Arc Flash & Flame Resistant Clothing

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Arc Flash & Flame Resistant Clothing

Although very similar, the differences between arc-rated and flame-resistant clothing are very important. Knowing which one applies to a situation can mark the difference between life, death, and severe injuries.

Indeed, arc-rated clothing is always flame-resistant; however, flame-resistant clothing is not always arc-rated. For those who work closely with electricity and situations with intense fire hazards, such as firefighters, electricians, and technicians, the right kind of flame-resistant clothing is a very important decision.

How Flame Resistant Clothing Works?

To understand how Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is able to protect you in the first place, it is first important to learn about the materials used to make it, how the final product is tested and why you need it in the first place.

An arc flash occurs during a high voltage scenario when a current stream deviates from its original path and forms a connection with the particles in the air or the ground. This results in a possibly fatal explosion of light and heat. Arc-rated clothing is made up of a mixture of high-quality nylon and cotton and includes everything from singular pieces of clothing to full-body coveralls. The result of the testing process gives arc-rated clothing it's rating which is usually expressed using the term ATPV (Arc Thermal Protective Value). Once more than a dozen samples of arc-rated clothing are manufactured, it is put through a testing process and measured across what is known as the "Stoll Curve." The Stoll Curve, in simple terms, determines the chances of the fabric allowing potential second-degree burns. Arc-rated clothing is then given a "level" to explain how protective it really is. These levels range from 1 to 4. To demonstrate how these levels work in the real world, firefighters use level 3 arc-rated clothing.

On the other hand, flame-resistant clothing is made up of modacrylic fabrics, nomex, and kevlar. They, too, are available as singular pieces of apparel and coveralls. The main difference between flame-resistant and arc flash clothing is the fact that flame-resistant clothing has not gone through the testing process and so it does not receive an arc rating. This makes it unsafe for potential disasters such as arc flashes.

Choosing the Right Protective Clothing

Before commencing any job, it is important to ensure you have the right equipment. In the case of protective clothing, this importance increases. While dealing with potential arc flashes, always remember that arc-rated clothing has a rating that is visible on the apparel. This gives you an idea of the clothing you need based on the level of protection the apparel offers. An example of this is that level 2 arc clothing has a rating that is called ANSI 125. Other factors that come into play while selecting the right PPE for the job are:

  • The Type of Job

    Level 1: Under Level 1 clothing, a long sleeve jacket and pants are required, along with a face shield with an arc rating of 4 cal/cm2.

    Level 2: Level 2 clothing necessitates an AR-rated long sleeve shirt or coveralls coupled with a hard hat and face shield, all with an arc rating of 8 cal/cm2.

    Level 3: Designed for an arc rating of a minimum of 25 cal/cm2, level 3 clothing requires a full AR flash suit jacket, pants, and a hood coupled with an AR rainwear and gloves. Firefighters are required to wear at least level 3 arc-rated clothing.

    Level 4: For the most intense and hazardous of purposes, level 4 arc-rated clothing is worn for a minimum of 40 cal/cm2. Included under this level of clothing is an AR long sleeve shirt, flash suit hood, jacket, gloves, pants, and rainwear.
  • Climate and Location: Where you are located and what time of year it is, makes a significant difference as to the kind of PPE you should opt for. The dust and air conditions of the air change as the temperature rises or drops. This affects the chances of an arc flash occurring in the first place or flame-resistant clothing being able to extinguish the fires on it.
  • Comfort: PPE was not initially designed for comfort but for its ability to save lives and potential damages. However, recent innovations in flame-resistant clothing have recognized that mobility holds imperative value regarding safety. The easier it is to move about and finish a job successfully is directly proportional to how efficiently the job will get done without accidents.
  • Adaptation to Non-Compliance: Despite the availability of flame-resistant clothing and its proven safety features, there are a few reasons why some refrain from using it. Among some of the most common are, how warm they get, how they do not fit properly, and how uncomfortable they are. Although these reasons may seem futile, one of the ways to guarantee safety is to purchase clothing that you or your workforce can stand to wear in light of the circumstances you plan to wear it under. A factor that is of some importance here is the breathability of the fabric you select and how much airflow it allows so that no suffocation is experienced under the suit.

ProServices Supply

To find the most suitable clothing for your purpose and protect yourself today, contact ProServices Supply to speak to an expert about your requirements. You can reach us at (877)-776-8228 to speak to an expert today for more information about arc-rated and flame-resistant clothing.