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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.

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What’s the difference between AR & FR?

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 AR and FR? According to Bulwark’s Technical Training Manager, Derek Sang, the most basic and important thing to know when it comes to AR and FR 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.

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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.

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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

Stay Informed

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

  • OSHA 1910.269
  • OSHA 1926.960
  • ASTM F 1506
  • Low Visibility
  • Arc Flash
FR CLOTHING BUILT TO WORK HARD
As a worker in the electric utility industry, you need to make sure you’re wearing the right FR garments that will protect you in the event of an arc flash. Bulwark Protection provides a wide variety of FR clothing that meets industry standards.
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