At Rozel, we specialize in Arc Flash Studies and are committed to ensuring the safety of workers who are exposed to electrical hazards. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the importance of choosing the right arc flash suit, the standards that govern their use, and the factors to consider when selecting the most suitable suit for your team.
Understanding Arc Flash Suits
Arc flash suits are sets of flame-resistant clothing designed to protect workers from serious injuries or illnesses resulting from electrical arc flash hazards. These suits include various components such as coveralls, leggings, aprons, footwear, smocks, gloves, pants, jackets, and vests. The strength of the material used in these suits is dependent on the minimum arc rating required for the specific task, which is determined by the level of risk involved. Arc flash suits are categorized into four hazard risk categories.
Regular work clothes can easily catch fire from an electric arc flash. However, the risk of serious injury is significantly reduced when an arc flash suit is worn in the presence of these electrical hazards.
NFPA 70E Standard for Arc Flash Clothing and Suits
The NFPA 70E standard addresses electrical safety work practices and procedures for employees who work on or near exposed, energized electrical equipment. This standard requires employees to wear arc-rated (AR) clothing that meets the requirements of ASTM F1959/F1959M (Standard Test Moethod for Determining the Arc Rating of Materials for Clothing) and ASTM F1506 (Standard Performance Specification for Flame Resistant and Electrical Arc Rated Protective Clothing Worn by Workers Exposed to Flames and Electric Arcs) whenever there is a possibility of an arc flash and the employee is within the restricted approach or arc flash boundaries.
Before performing live work, employees must conduct a risk assessment to determine the likelihood and severity of an arc flash based on their work. It's important to note that compliance that NFPA 70E is a national consensus safety standard published by NFPA primarily to assist OSHA in preparing electrical safety standards.
The Impact of an Electrical Arc Flash on Clothing
Electrical arcs can reach temperatures exceeding 35,000 degrees, instantly melting and vaporizing electrical conductors into combustible plasma gas. This gas rapidly expands due to the superheating of air, producing a concussive blast that propels molten shrapnel at speeds exceeding the speed of sound. This condition is referred to as arc blast by the NFPA.
A byproduct of arc blast is blast overpressure, which is produced when the blast shock wave reaches the sound barrier. Blast overpressure can be fatal, even at 2 pounds per square inch, as it can crush hollow organ systems such as the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Typically blast and overpressure is only a concern at extremely high fault current (i.e. 100kA+) or with large capacitors (more info here).
Choosing the Correct Arc Flash Clothing and/or Suit
The selection of the right arc flash clothing or suit depends on your electrical safety requirements. The higher the incident energy level at the point of work, the higher the arc-rated PPE you'll need. We typically recommend a "two-category" arc-rated clothing system. The first "category" would be your daily wear, typically this consists of an arc-rated shirt and pants with 8 cal/cm^2 arc rating. This is what your electrical workers wear all the time. The second "category" is the suit. We suggest looking at your arc flash evaluation and seeing what your highest arc flash hazard is, your suit should be rated higher than this. While 40 cal/cm^2 is a common suit arc rating, suits are available for higher values as well. Keep in mind, arc flashes greater than 8 cal/cm^2 will definitely damage your equipment and greater than 40 cal/cm^2 will cause significant downtime. Just because you can protect the worker doesn't mean the task should be completed while energizes.
Where to Purchase Arc Flash Clothing and/or Suit
Rozel does not partner with any supplier to ensure our PPE opinions remain unbiased. Our Safety Support Team is always available to discuss your electrical-related workplace applications and to help you choose the right clothing to keep your workforce protected from arc flash.
There are many garment manufacturers that have become readily available (especially on Amazon) but not all have been tested properly. We suggest with researching your garment manufacturer if you've never heard of them, ask for test results proving ATPV values. Some of the more trusted brands include: Bulwark, Wrangler, Ariat, Enespro, CPA (Chicago Protective Apparel). Trusted suppliers/distributors include: Legion Safety, National Safety Apparel, or direct from trusted manufacturer websites.
Understanding the importance of arc flash suits and choosing the right one for your team is crucial in ensuring safety in the workplace. At Rozel, we are dedicated to providing you with the necessary information and resources to make the best decision for your team's safety.