An Introduction to Arc Flash
Arc Flash Clothing: What Does it Mean for the Wearer?
An Arc Flash can be very dangerous to those who are in the vicinity. The electrical arcing, sometimes called a flashover, can generate intense heat. This can result in deep-seated, slow-healing burns to skin within a fraction of a second. Temperatures can reach up to an incredible 19,000ºC.
Additionally, the immense ultraviolet radiation can severely damage eyes, whilst the explosive pressure wave can rupture eardrums and even throw workers across the room. It goes without saying that the thermal energy of an Arc Flash can also result in a brutal death.
Unfortunately, arc flash is a growing hazard in many industries, due to the increase in electrical usage across the world. Some examples of the causes of these vicious electrical arcs include voltage spikes, cable strikes, gaps in insulation and worn connections.
Whilst caution towards electrical equipment can help to reduce the chance of an Arc Flash, it is crucial to be protected by wearing the correct clothing.
So, what does arc flash clothing mean for the wearer?
Wearing arc flash protective clothing will reduce your risk of being injured by an electrical arc. Whilst not that common, electrical accidents can still take place, especially if those working near the equipment have not received adequate training or are using inadequate tools. These incidents frequently happen when people work on live electrical items thought to be dead. Arc flash clothing lessens the possibility of damage to your body if an unfortunate electrical accident occurs.
The alternative is that clothes made from cotton and wool ignite when exposed to the intense radiant energy. The flames continue to spread to additional areas of the body and large areas of the skin can sustain second- and third-degree burns. Needless to say, it really isn’t even worth considering this scenario as an option.
When should you wear arc flash clothing?
Not all Arc Flash clothing is suitable for every incident, so it’s important to analyse the hazard before choosing the appropriate garments. Materials are tested for their arc rating, which is the maximum incident energy resistance that they can cope with. This is usually measured in calories per centimetre squared (cal/cm2), i.e. how many calories of heat can be withstood per square centimetre.
Arc flashes are common in industries such as power generation, utilities, railway maintenance, petrochemicals, and working with high voltage power supplies. If employees are operating in potentially hazardous conditions where an electrical arc is a risk, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers, contractors and any site visitors are wearing appropriate clothing.
How can I protect my workers from injuries related to an Arc Flash?
Here at SafetyCare, we offer a wide range of protective clothing. From polo shirts, sweatshirts, trousers and jackets, to full coveralls, helmets, visors and gloves. Each item will safeguard a vital part of your body from a range of dangers, including arc flash burns and damage.
We highly recommend ProGARM for premium arc flash protection. For example, these high-performance Kevlar-lined gloves benefit from an arc rating of 55.5 cal/m2. Meanwhile, keep your upper body safe with the ProGARM FR Arc Flash Sweatshirt. Its comfortable design will allow you to stay protected whilst you work.
SafetyCare also stocks the ProGARM Arc Flash Helmet and Visor.This set shields your skull against work-related injuries such as falling objects, electric shock and even molten metal splashes. It’s ideal for those who regularly work on sites with live electrical connections.
Another step towards Arc Flash safety is to conduct a study at your site. Assess the possibility of an electrical arc and decide on what protective clothing is appropriate and required to carry out the work safely. Combine annual assessments and regular staff refresher sessions with daily equipment checks and a shared culture of responsibility, and you’ll maintain a safe and happy workplace.