Some engineers may think that as long as they’re wearing the correct level of arc-rated PPE, they are protected from being injured in the event of an Arc Flash occurring, but that is not always true. How a worker wears their PPE and what it’s worn with can affect the integrity of it dramatically.
How to wear Arc Flash Clothing and PPE
Regardless of how hot it gets whilst working or how ill-fitting arc-rated garment are, they should never be tampered with so that they leave any part of your body exposed. So rolling up your sleeves or undoing a few buttons is a big no-no. This is particularly true for your hands and arms as these body parts are likely to be closest to the energized components during an Arc Flash incident, and so will experience the highest temperatures, resulting in serious harm. Ensuring that all items of PPE fit correctly will prevent this from happening. Learn more about layering your arc flash clothing here.
If you find yourself regularly working in hot environments, then request lightweight arc flash clothing from your employer. There are lots of options available that use moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics to create clothing that is both comfortable to wear and safe so don’t allow the sun to compromise your protection.
For example, in warmer climates consider getting your engineer a combination of ARC FR T-Shirts, Shirts, Trousers and Lightweight overalls (however make sure protection levels are being met). For cooler climates, use the same articles and layer them accordingly to meet at least the minimum protection required. Here is an example of how you could layer your clothing:
If wearing an arc-rated shirt for example, always ensure that it is properly tucked into your trousers, as an untucked shirt can exposure bare skin to heat, flames, and / or pressure from an Arc Flash. It is important to ensure that shirttails are long enough so that they can be tucked in and stay in whilst working.
What not to wear with Arc Flash Clothing and PPE
Wearing the wrong type of clothing during an Arc Flash can actually make the situation worse and cause more harm than if you were wearing nothing at all. Non-arc rated synthetics, for instance, such as polyester and nylon, have the potential to melt to your skin when exposed to the extreme heat of an Arc Flash incident.
No matter how bad the weather where you’re working in gets, you should not wear a standard workwear jacket over your arc flash clothing that’s not arc and flame resistant. This is because in the event of an electrical explosion, it could ignite and burn, thus putting you in danger of serious injury.
A big area for concern is engineers wearing footballs t-shirts underneath clothing – to put it bluntly if an Arc Flash occurs that will melt directly onto the skin. To avoid this from happening, any under layers should be made from an arc and flame-resistant material that doesn’t melt.
Finally, you should never wear anything that is metallic, i.e. rings, buckles, jewellery etc. Not only are these things great conductors for electricity, but they are also conductors of heat. During an arc flash, it has been known for metal belt buckles to burn holes into worker’s stomachs.
So, to make sure your Arc & Flame clothing is in compliance and ready to keep you safe, remember:
- Wear Arc & Flame outerwear
- Avoid synthetic under layers
- Roll it down
- Zip it up
- Tuck it in