Electrical Safety Stories Blog

Head and Neck Protection in Arc Flash PPE: Knowing Your Options

Head and Neck Protection in Arc Flash PPE: Knowing Your Options

By: Rich Gojdics


Aside from hands and forearms, what’s the closest part of a worker’s body to the equipment he or she is working on—and the most likely part of the body to receive damage during an arc flash? It’s the face, head, and neck.

Head, Face, and Neck Protection at Different Levels of Electrical Work: Balaclavas, Shrouds, and Hoods

There are many things that go into protecting the head, neck, vision, and hearing from injury as a result of an arc flash—hard hats, face shields, safety glasses, earplugs, and more. While the face shield is often a key consideration (with good reason), another part of the equation is the gear that covers the rest of the face.

It all starts with the Cal/cm2 rating and design of the fabric designed to minimize burns: Balaclavas/hood socks and shrouds for PPE Category 2, and full hoods for Category 4.

While many facilities opt to use a balaclava under CAT 4 hoods for hygiene (the barrier approach), this is the main difference in the two categories.

  • Balaclava/Hood Sock for CAT 2 Work: Designed to offer a snug fit around a worker’s face, balaclavas should cover much of the face, neck, ears, and back of the head—areas a face shield and helmet doesn’t completely cover. As these are designed to provide direct skin contact, comfort is a necessity. These should meet or exceed the necessary levels of protection and we offer both 12 CAL and 20 CAL balaclava options that fit right and protect workers.
  • Shrouds for CAT 2 Work: Additionally, workers can choose to opt for a shroud to handle PPE Category 2 Work which are looser fitting than a balaclava and sometimes preferred because they do not make direct contact with the face. Check out our new vented 20 CAL shroud here.
  • Arc Flash Hoods for CAT 4 Work and All Levels: Comparatively, for those in need of CAT 4 arc flash PPE or those looking to offer a one-suit solution for all levels 1-4 (it’s possible), the arc flash hood integrated with a face shield and hard hat is the option to select.

With many organizations opting for a one-suit or two-suit approach, choosing a product that can not only protect workers but provide comfort and breathability is necessary.

The Problem with Traditional Hoods: A Lack of Breathability and Airflow

When we set out to design and manufacture arc rated PPE that workers actually want to use, we wanted to create products that are comfortable, breathable, and well-ventilated. In this, we designed our balaclavas to stretch, and offered the option between hoods with dual fans or lift-front face shields to provide the comfort and breathability workers need.

In an upcoming blog, we will explore the other half of the head protection equation—the face shield—and discuss how to select an option that not only protects but allows better visibility and color recognition. See our entire line of Arc Flash Hoods, Face Shields and Balaclavas here.

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