Can rubber insulating gloves protect you from Arc Flash?
One question that comes up all the time when I’m doing electrical safety training is whether or not an electrician’s rubber insulating gloves offer any protection from Arc Flash? Interestingly enough, even though you probably won’t find a label on the glove that says so, rubber insulating gloves used in conjunction with leather protectors do offer sufficient protection from arc flash burns.
Now we are talking about arc flash protection but don’t forget why you are wearing the gloves in the first place. Shock Hazard. That needs to be your primary concern when it comes to protecting your hands. Once you’ve got that taken care of you can worry about arc flash.
Is this legit?
The industry standard for electrical safety, NFPA70E, does not offer much information about how to size your gloves for arc flash protection or how to determine the incident energy rating for your gloves but I’m lead to believe that they have done some testing and feel comfortable saying that the rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors will protect you from an arc flash. Here is what it says in the standard:
“If rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors are used, additional leather or arc-rated gloves shall not be required. The combination of rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors satisfies the arc flash protection requirement.”
That note applies to an arc flash PPE category of 4 which requires a minimum of 40 cal/cm2 protection. So that gives me a good level of comfort that my gloves offer great protection from arc flash.
How can you prove it?
Up until June of 2013, the amount of protection was determined by the thickness of the leather protectors. That year though a new standard for testing gloves was approved and testing started right away. Because thickness was not part of the criteria for meeting the standard manufacturers are now coming out with thinner leather gloves that still offer the maximum protection against arc flash. Something you might want to look into with your supplier.
Also, traditional rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors were tested alongside some of the Arc Flash Gloves which you may now see on the market and it was proven that they offer fantastic protection from Arc Flash. In case you are curious, the standard for testing gloves for Arc Flash is ASTM F2675-13.
Just remember, the main reason you are wearing the rubber insulating gloves is to protect against shock hazards. Fortunately, your regular rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors offer an excellent protection from an arc flash hazard and should always be worn, when there is a risk of a shock or an arc flash event.