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Layering FR/AR Garments for Protection Against Arc Flash

Arc flash is a dangerous reality for those who work in the electrical industries. Since arc flash incidents cannot be predicted, it’s important that workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. This whitepaper discusses how a layered system can protect workers while providing comfort and safety.

Fill out the form below to download the whitepaper.

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What’s the difference between FR & AR?


Arming your crew with the appropriate FR gear is a feat in itself. Navigating the ever-changing sea of standards? Now that’s another beast entirely. Bulwark is here to help you choose the right FR program by ensuring you have a thorough grasp on the standards and what they mean for you—and your crew.

When the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) introduced the term “Arc-Rated” or “AR” in its 2012 revision to NFPA 70E, it was a bit of a head-scratcher. The question on every safety manager’s mind was: what’s the difference between FR and AR? According to Bulwark’s Technical Training Manager, Derek Sang, the most basic and important thing to know when it comes to FR and AR is that all arc-rated clothing is flame resistant, but not all flame resistant clothing is arc-rated.

For a piece of clothing to be considered flame resistant, the fabric used to make the garment must withstand ignition and/or rapidly self-extinguish in order to protect the wearer from the dangers of flash fire, arc flash, molten metals and other hazards. In the event of a flash fire or arc flash, the FR PPE worn must resist catching fire, melting, and continuing to burn after the initial flash to act as a barrier between the wearer and the hazard.

The fabric used to create arc-rated clothing is subject to additional tests, above and beyond fabric labeled simply “FR.” Primarily, it is exposed to a series of arc flashes to determine how much energy the fabric is able to block before it would likely cause the wearer to obtain a 2nd degree burn, 50% of the time. The result of this test, expressed in calories, is known as the Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV).

Current standards for arc flash protection, detailed by NFPA 70E, state that all PPE clothing must also be flame resistant to qualify for an arc rating. In other words: all AR clothing is FR, but not all FR clothing is AR. This is because, based on the results of the series of tests outlined above, equipment rated FR may not always provide the adequate level of protection for workers who are at risk of encountering arc flashes. These employees—general industry electricians (70E)— must wear the appropriate level of AR clothing for the hazard, in order to reduce their risk of serious injury or death caused by an arc flash.

How to manage cold stress on the job.

Cold stress may not be as well-known as heat stress, but when the temperature drops, it can pose a significant danger. Employers have many options for helping workers manage their exposure to cold while protecting them from flash fire and arc flash. This whitepaper discusses how you can layer FR/AR garments, how to implement a PPE program and the warnings signs of cold stress.

Fill out the form below to download the whitepaper.

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KEMA Arc Flash Project

In 2019, our resident FR/AR expert Derek Sang conducted the first-ever Bulwark 201 training seminar focused exclusively on the arc flash hazard. The highlight of that training was the opportunity to conduct live arc flash demonstrations at the KEMA High Voltage Laboratory. The primary goal of that demonstration, as with all Bulwark endeavors, was to further educate safety managers about the importance of FR/AR safety. As a continuation of that goal, we were also able to capture video from the demonstrations we conducted that day to share with our wider electric utility audience who weren’t able to be there in person.

And then March happened, and COVID hit, and…well, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men…

However, as we adjusted to this new normal, we were finally able to finish the project remotely. We took a slightly different slant, which was less technical and more focused on demonstrating the importance of wearing arc rated clothing. In the end, we landed on a five-part formula that we feel clearly tells this important safety story:

1. The Hazard
2. The Danger
3. The Solution
4. Outerwear
5. The Right Outerwear

The Bulwark team is proud to share this project and grateful to all our teams who helped make it happen, despite the unprecedented times in which we are living. It is yet another example of our ongoing commitment to be the relentless protectors of those that power our world. We hope you find them valuable.


 

WATCH ALL ACTS

Free Home Wash Magnet

Our free FR Home Wash magnet is packed with FR laundering quick tips. Request your free magnet to learn more, and keep it handy wherever you launder your garments.

Fill Out the Form Below to Request Your Magnet

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Know Your Hazards

Depending on the line of work you’re in, there are any number of dangers you may encounter on the job. From slip-and-fall hazards to those due to working at height, there’s PPE to help keep you protected. When it comes to thermal hazards, your FR clothing protects you against two main hazards: Flash Fire and Arc Flash.

Flash Fire
A flash fire is a rapid moving flame front that can be caused by a diffuse fuel, such as dust, gas, or the vapors of an ignitable liquid, without the production of damaging pressure. In the Oil & Gas industry, which includes exploration, drilling, field services and refining, flash fires are the primary hazard FR protects against.

NFPA® 2112 and NFPA® 2113 are the “go-to” industry consensus standards that address flash fire. Once safety managers have identified they have a flash fire hazard, FR is necessary. Selecting the appropriate FR garments for your safety program should be based on a number of factors such as protection, comfort and durability.

Arc Flash
An arc flash is a powerful and dangerous occurrence where an electric current leaves its anticipated path and travels from phase to phase, or phase to ground. The resulting explosion produces extremely high temperatures, acoustic energy and concussive force. When a person is in close proximity to the arc flash, serious burn injury and even death can occur.

The Arc Flash hazard affects all who work in and around energized electrical equipment. This can include general industry electricians, maintenance workers and operators, as well as our electric utilities, including transmission, distribution, generation and metering. As employers, it is your responsibility to ensure that all employees exposed to the hazard are protected with arc-rated flame-resistant clothing.

No matter which hazard your FR clothing is designed to address, the success of any program is dependent upon the proper selection, use, care and maintenance of your FR program. For more information on how to select the right FR for your needs and tips on implementing a FR clothing program, get in touch with a Bulwark FR expert.

STAY INFORMED

The Bulwark Protection PPE experts help you and your team to stay up to date on the sea of standards, regulations and hazards your industry faces including:

  • Arc Flash
  • Heat Stress
  • Flash Fire
  • Visibility
Good to Go From Head to Toe

Depending on your line of work, there are a number of hazards you may encounter on the job. Bulwark Protection offers PPE that protects against:

  • Arc Flash
  • Flash Fire
  • Chemical Splash
  • Combustible Dust
  • Molten Metals
  • Visibility
Ask An Expert
What is a Hazard Risk Assessment?

AR, FR, ATPV, OSHA. The list goes on and on. If there’s one thing that’s true about FR safety, it’s that there are a lot of terms to memorize. It’s not always easy to keep the various words and acronyms straight, but when it comes to building and implementing an effective safety program, knowing your FR vocabulary is important. Here, our FR experts have compiled the most important of those terms in a handy alphabetized glossary so you can create a culture of compliance.

Arc Flash
An arc flash is a type of electrical explosion where temperatures can reach or exceed 35,000 °F. The Arc Flash hazard affects all who work in and around energized electrical equipment. This can include general industry electricians, maintenance workers and operators, as well as our electric utilities, including transmission, distribution, generation and metering.

Arc-Rated (AR) Protective Clothing
Arc-rated protective clothing protects from arc flash and electric arc hazards. AR garments are measured in cal/cm². The total AR clothing system must meet or exceed required arc protection levels. Remember, all AR is FR, but not all FR is AR.

Breakopen
Breakopen is the formation of holes in the fabric during arc rating testing. This is the point of failure of FR protective garments.

EBT
Energy Break-Open Threshold is an alternative measure to ATPV when that measure cannot be used due to breakopen.

Flash Fire
A rapid moving flame front that can be caused by a diffuse fuel, such as dust, gas, or the vapors of an ignitable liquid, without the production of damaging pressure. Flash fire is the primary hazard in the Oil & Gas industry, which includes exploration, drilling, field services and refining.

Hazard Risk Assessment
The first step in the creation of any PPE program is the Hazard Assessment. Federal regulations require employers to assess the workplace to determine if hazards that require the use of personal protective equipment are present or are likely to be present. These include impacts, combustible dust, fire/heat, and chemical hazards, among others.

HRC (Hazard Risk Category)
Hazard risk categories are defined by NFPA® 70E and assigned based on risk associated with electrical safety and arc flash. HRC levels determine the appropriate ATPV of flame-resistant clothing for a given task.

PPE Category
Replaces HRC in 2015 edition of NFPA 70E, the “0” category was eliminated in NFPA 70E 2015. The minimum ATPV’s for PPE Category 1 through 4 are the same as they were for HRC, and the new PPE table only specifies PPE for work within the arc flash boundary.

CAT 2
HRC 2 rated garments have an arc rating between 8 cal/cm² and 25 cal/cm² and are often referred to as “daily wear.”

CAT 3
HRC 3 rated garments have an arc rating between 25 cal/cm² and 40 cal/cm².

CAT 4
HRC 4 rated garments have an arc rating equal or greater than 40 cal/cm². These high ratings are achieved with a layered FR system. Download our FR Layering Fact Sheet to learn the do’s and don’ts of layering for FR.

Inherently Flame Resistant
Inherently flame resistant fabrics are engineered to be flame-resistant at the fiber level, and do not require any additional finishing.

NFPA®
The National Fire Protection Association is an agency whose task it is to promote and improve fire protection and prevention. They publish National Fire Codes.

NFPA® 2112
Refers to NFPA’s “Standard on Flame Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel Against Flash Fire.” NFPA® 2112 is the “go-to” industry consensus standard that addresses flash fire. It defines the testing methods and performance requirements for flame-resistant fabrics for this hazard.

NFPA® 70E
The “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” NFPA® 70E is meant to protect those working around potential arc flash hazards. Note that NFPA® 70E applies only to general industry electrical safety, not to electric utility workers.

OSHA

Founded by the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Their general duty clause ensures a safe workplace for all employees and is the basis for all industry consensus standards. OSHA determines regulations and standards related to personal protective equipment.

OSHA 1910.269

The regulation states that power utilities make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which their employee would be exposed, and that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear AR clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.

ANSI

Founded in 1918, The American National Standards Institute coordinates and develops voluntary standards for products, services, and systems. The organization’s goals include performance consistency and product safety. It is the U.S. member body to ISO and IEC.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Personal protective equipment is specialized safety gear worn by an employee for protection against a hazard. Flame resistant/arc rated garments are a form of personal protective clothing worn against thermal hazards.

Moisture Wicking

Moisture wicking fabrics pull moisture (sweat) away from the body and dry quickly, keeping the wearer cooler, dryer, and more comfortable. Bulwark iQ Series® FR Comfort Knits and Wovens are among the best moisture wicking FR garments available.

Breathability

Breathability refers to how well a fabric allows air to be transmitted through the material. The more air that passes through, the cooler the wearer stays. Bulwark iQ Series® Endurance Collection is the first of its kind to offer high level FR protection in a material that is extremely breathable and durable.

Stay Informed

The best defense for you and your team is to stay educated on how you can reduce injury in the case of an arc flash. The Bulwark Protection PPE experts provide a wide range of tools and resources on how to select the right FR and tips on how to properly implement a safety program.

  • OSHA 1910.269
  • Selection, Use, Care and Maintenance of FR Clothing
  • NFPA 70E
  • Arc Rating Calculator
Stay Informed

The Bulwark Protection PPE experts help you and your team to stay up to date on the sea of standards, regulations and hazards your industry faces including:

  • NFPA® 70E

  • Visibility
  • Arc Flash

  • Combustible Dust

Industry News
Bulwark Protection Joins Partnership for Electrical Safety.

Proud Members. Shared Mission.

With our commitment to relentless protection comes a commitment to doing our part to help ensure worker safety by pushing for standards and oversight. Nowhere is this obligation more essential than the world of NFPA® 70E, and in the lives of those Americans working near energized equipment. It is our pleasure to announce Bulwark Protection is now a proud member of the Partnership for Electrical Safety.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The Partnership for Electrical Safety firmly believes that every American working on or near energized electrical equipment deserves equal protection from arc flash, including the appropriate arc rated clothing and associated PPE. We believe that the PPE requirements of NFPA 70E®: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® provide the appropriate best practices to ensure worker safety and should be broadly adopted for substantially all live or potentially live electrical work in the United States. We seek to educate those at risk and to make plain to relevant oversight entities the need for use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when doing electrical work, and the extreme human and financial costs of non-compliance.
We intend to help ensure all Americans have access to and properly wear the appropriate arc rated clothing and associated PPE. We accomplish this through visually compelling and impactful direst education in person and online, and by engaging standards and rulemaking entities such as OSHA, NESC® and others. We help these entities understand the magnitude of the hazard as well as the societal cost of not wearing appropriate PPE, to encourage them to apply arc flash safety regulations equally to all workers.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, 2018 Edition addresses electrical safety related work practices, safety-related maintenance requirements and other administrative controls for activities such as inspection, operation, repair or demolition of electric conductors, electric equipment, signaling and communications conductors and equipment, and raceways. It also includes safe work practices for employees performing other work activities that can expose them to electrical hazards such as installation of conductors and equipment or installations used by the electrical utility that are not an integral part of a generating plant, substation or control center.
NFPA 70E® is a national consensus standard that establishes “best practices” for protection from electric arcs. Employers must conduct a shock risk assessment to establish limited and restricted approach boundaries and an arc flash risk assessment to establish an arc flash boundary. Under NFPA 70E® employers must document and implement an overall electrical safety program that includes hazard/risk evaluation and job briefing procedures. This program must be audited annually. If energized electrical conductor or circuit parts operating at 50 volts or more are not placed in an electrically safe work condition, written authorization by work permit is required. Employees must be qualified to do the work and trained to understand the specific hazards and potential injury associated with electrical energy. Employees exposed to shock hazards must be retrained annually in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. When work will be performed within the arc flash protection boundary, the employer must document the incident energy exposure in calories per square centimeter. Section 130.7 (C)(7) states arc-rated clothing must conform to applicable state, federal, or local codes and standards, and appropriate PPE must be worn either based on the incident energy determined for the specific task or by using separate tables in NFPA 70E to determine the need for arc-rated PPE and the arc flash PPE category. In table 130.7(C)(14) the ASTM F1506 Standard Performance Specification is noted as an example of a standard that contains information on the care, inspection, testing, and manufacturing of appropriate PPE.
Employees during activities such as installation, operation, maintenance and demolition of exposed energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. Research shows that approximately 5% of the employees in any operation work as electricians, maintenance or other categories of work covered by this standard.
OSHA believes that the NFPA 70E® standard offers useful guidance for employers and employees attempting to control electrical hazards, but OSHA has not conducted a rulemaking and therefore does not “enforce” NFPA 70E®. OSHA does use consensus standards, such as NFPA 70E® as evidence of hazard recognition in evaluating General Duty Clause violations.

To learn more, please visit the Partnership for Electrical Safety website.

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