Electrical hazards are perilous hazards that you can potentially face working with energized electrical equipment. Yet, quality arc flash coveralls guarantee you a good measure of safety.
These workplace hazards result from brief yet powerful electric arc flashes. It’s, therefore, necessary that you opt for the appropriate PPE for arc flash risks, such as arc-resistant coveralls.
This article will discuss arc flashes, arc-rated coveralls, and the arc flash coverall categories. We’ll also show you the difference between flame-resistant and arc-rated clothing.
You’ll also discover the significance of arc flash coveralls and arc flash clothing ratings.
Arc Flash: What It Means
An electrical explosion occurs when an electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air to the ground or between two conductors. The sudden, intense light and heat released from this arc fault is an arc flash.
Arc faults result from exposed live wire and lose connections, even dust, and corrosion. Damaged electrical equipment, improper installation, and lack of safety awareness are other common factors.
You’re also at risk if you work with high voltage equipment. Or if your workplace has issues with electrical insulation.
Typical arc flashes involve intense light, acoustic energy, pressure wave, and thermal energy. And temperatures can reach between 3,000 to 18,000 °C. With these, high-intensity burns and significant property damage often takes place.
That’s why it’s crucial to employ the proper safety procedures and arc flash PPE in potentially risky work situations.
One prominent feature of arc flash events is the release of incident energy. This incident energy is measured more commonly in calories per square centimeter (cal/cm2). The value is vital in arc flash clothing ratings.
So, arc flash coveralls resists electrical arc flashes. Therefore, this type of personal protective equipment (PPE) undergoes arc testing to determine the various arc flash coverall categories.
Categories of Arc Flash Coveralls
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) distinguishes arc flash PPE in several classes of arc flash ratings. The NFPA Standard 70E defines this. So, arc flash coveralls fall under each category per the minimum required arc rating for a workplace environment.
The now-defunct arc flash PPE category 0 refers to optional natural fiber garments. These included materials that were neither flame-resistant nor arc-rated. The NFPA 70E now classifies arc flash coveralls into four PPE categories.
The lowest level is category one, used in low-voltage operations. These coveralls have a minimum arc rating of 4 cal/cm2. You can pair them with a face shield or arc flash suit hood.
Category 2 arc flash coveralls rates at 8 cal/cm2, even to 20 Cal arc flash coveralls.
They are also in category one (1) workplaces, with relative comfort to category one coveralls and excellent arc flash protection. Any other required or needed accessories should have a similar arc rating.
Next, we have arc flash PPE for category three(3) workplace environments. The minimum rating here is 25 cal/cm2. And these coveralls must be paired with arc flash suit hoods and arc-rated gloves. Also required are eye and hearing protection and leather footwear.
Lastly, there is the arc flash PPE category 4, which is the most protective.
These coveralls are specific to category four (4) work environments. These workplaces require full-body electrical arc flash PPE with at least 40 calories/cm2 arc rating.
What Is the Difference Between Arc Rated Coveralls and Flame Resistant Coveralls
Now, we need to discuss the distinction between arc-rated vs. flame-resistant coveralls. All arc-rated (AR) coveralls are indeed fire-resistant. However, not all clothing termed flame-resistant (FR) is necessarily arc tested.
Basically, a material cannot undergo any arc testing procedures without being flame resistant.
The comparison is essential because incident energy from arc flashes affects our bodies much more than open flames. With incident energy exposure, the depth of burn through the skin occurs much more quickly.
Nowadays, it is necessary to note the significant points of the arc-rated vs. flame-resistant debate.
Essentially, flame-resistant coveralls are not flammable and prevent serious body injuries. However, they rarely undergo tests against arc flash hazards. So, even though all FR fabrics offer flame resistance, some may or do not have the appropriate rating.
The safety standards of arc flash-rated coveralls go further than that of regular FR coveralls. Meaning arc flash coveralls offer a considerably higher level of protection.
Arc testing ensures your coveralls can block a certain amount of incident energy.
How Arc Flash Coveralls Changes the Game
There are a lot of advantages to arc flash coveralls. And this is in relation to traditional as well as flame-resistant coveralls.
One, they reduce possible consequences resulting from human errors on the job and environmental risks.
Second, whether you’re new or experienced, an arc flash suit gives you at least a base level of protection.
Buying a standard electrical arc flash coverall costs much less than treating burns. The durability of the fabric construction also ensures you get more value for money.
Most importantly, they help you to comply with the NFPA 70E consensus standards.
And, since they mirror traditional work clothes, they eliminate extra time for wearing multiple PPE. In all, arc flash coveralls communicate that workplace safety is of high priority.
In addition, arc flash clothing layering contributes to a higher-rated arc flash protection system. This system of arc-rated clothing ensures more excellent performance compared to single clothing items.
There are training programs on arc flash suits that any industrial worker can undertake. These cover all you need to know regarding arc flash PPE, including arc flash suit repair and maintenance. They also help communicate the essence of workplace safety.
How to Rate Arc Flash Coveralls
Arc flash clothing ratings are essential to know the protective traits of particular coverall fabrics. Also, they are required to meet the OSHA regulations.
Arc incident energy levels are measured in calories per cm2, referred to as cal rating.
As a result, we have four categories of electrical arc flash PPE. Each arc flash coverall category then requires a minimum cal rating.
For example, there are coveralls with arc flash 12 cal rating. It means that 12Cal/cm2 is the minimum incident energy the coverall can absorb before it heats up and causes burns.
Arc flash clothing labels usually indicate the arc thermal performance value (ATPV) of the fabric. The ATPV number is the point at which 1.2 Cal/cm² of incident energy transfers through the material. Or the point at which you’d expect a 2nd-degree burn.
Another essential quality is the energy break-open threshold or EBT. It is the least energy required to break open a coverall material. Typically, the lower of the ATPV and EBT values becomes the arc rating of the material.
The best practice is to choose PPE with higher arc ratings than the potential hazards.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
Q. What Type of Clothing Should Not Be Worn In Potential Arc Flash Areas?
A. Non-arc rated clothing and synthetic fabric materials. Under-layers made with synthetics, like nylon and polyester, will burn in contact with intense heat. Wearing non-arc clothing over arc flash workwear will also not keep you safe during an arc flash.
Q. How Many Times Can You Wash Arc Flash Clothing?
A. The best advice is to follow the care label for specific manufacturer’s instructions.
Q. How Often Should Arc Flash Coverall Be Replaced?
A. As soon as any damage occurs or you begin to notice significant wearing of the garment. The majority of electrical safety experts agree you should replace arc flash coveralls within five years of use.
Q. How Do You Store Arc Flash Coveralls?
A. You can store your electrical arc flash coverall in non-breathable nylon bags or storage bins. Also, you should keep them out of direct sunlight and separate them from your other clothes.
Q. How Often Should Arc Flash Suit Be Tested?
A. You should test your arc flash suit for electrical shock hazards every six months. However, since arc and flame tests are destructive, they cannot be performed except on similar samples. So, we recommend you replace the suit after ten years.
Q. How Do You Layer Up Arc Flash Clothing?
A. Make sure to layer up your upper and lower body equally. Go for non-melting fabrics, like 100% cotton or wool, as your base or under-layer. Use only outer garments like raincoats, high visibility vests, and jackets that are arc tested.
Wearing synthetic fabrics under your arc-rated clothing is always a no-no. Also, do not wear non-arc rated clothing with arc-rated clothing.
Electrical arc flash protective clothing is essential if you work in potentially arc flash areas. This type of PPE shield you from electrical hazards and significantly reduce thermal injuries.
Remember that arc flash coveralls are also flame resistant. And follow your workplace electrical arc flash PPE requirement to use the correct category type.
We hope you use arc-resistant coveralls for all your dangerous work situations. With these, we guarantee you’ll work without fear.