The Need for Arc Flash Suits
By: Rich Gojdics
Doing work on or near energized, or potentially energized equipment, threatens employees with danger from electric shock/ electrocution and arc flash. To protect themselves from injury, or even death, workers should wear Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) as their last line of defense. The arc flash suit is arguably the most important component of PPE. It protects the majority of the worker’s body from the effects of an arc flash.
The necessity of PPE in working with energized equipment
Electrical equipment sometimes needs to be serviced while it is energized. This is not the preferred mode of service, but it may be unavoidable. In these cases, PPE is required. PPE is also required if the task is simply voltage testing to verify that the equipment is de-energized..
Arc flash presents a serious risk. Arc flash occurs when energy is released from an electric arc. It happens when there is a fault, or short circuit condition, which passes through the arc gap. It can happen for a variety of reasons, including accidental contact (e.g. with a tool), deterioration or corrosion of equipment or parts, underrated equipment for the available short circuit current, tracking or contamination over insulated surfaces and so on.
Arc flash events are known to expel large amounts of heat energy. The air near the arc ionizes, causing an explosion, with temperatures reaching 35,000 degrees—hotter than the surface of the sun. A worker located in the impact area is at risk for severe burns or death if he or she is not wearing the proper PPE.
The energy released in an arc flash can easily cause regular, work clothing to catch on fire, which can dramatically increase the extent and severity of the of burn injury. Electrical PPE replaces regular work clothes to mitigate the risk of arc flash burn injuries. Standard PPE gear usually comprises an arc flash suit, hood and face shield, gloves, safety glasses, ear plugs and so forth. All pieces should be worn in order to get the maximum degree of injury prevention.
What is an Arc Flash Suit?
The arc flash suit covers most of the worker’s body. The suits are usually available in different forms, ranging from full coveralls or jackets & bib style overalls to pants and jacket combinations. Workers have individual preferences and needs when they work, so it makes sense to have such options. However, it’s necessary to cover up completely with PPE when working with energized or potentially energized equipment.
Arc flash suits meet a range of performance levels, typically measured in terms of calories of energy per square centimeter. Thus, a set of “12 CAL” jacket & bib overalls are designed to protect workers from arc flashes that produce less than 12 cal/cm2 of heat energy. These suits would also meet the NFPA 70E PPE standard of “CAT 2.” These ratings give the user an indication of protection level needed according to the severity of the arc flash. The higher the CAL and CAT numbers, the higher the arc rating you need to provide adequate protection from an arc flash.
Additional safety features are often built into the arc flash suit. For instance, many suits have reflective tape sewn into the arms and legs. These help the wearer be visible in the dark. Given that electrical repair often takes places in dimly lit places (and places that can become completely dark in the event of an electrical explosion and subsequent power outage) visibility helps with safety—as well as with finding people in the event of an arc flash incident. An arc flash causes smoke and chaos, so making it easy for rescue crew or coworkers to spot the affected employees makes for a better overall safety environment.
To learn about the latest in arc flash suits, visit https://enesproppe.com/collections/arc-flash-suits/
<<Back to Electrical Safety Stories Blog