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What Are the 4 Different Arc Flash PPE Categories in NFPA 70E?

What Are the 4 Different Arc Flash PPE Categories in NFPA 70E?

No matter the industry or activity, personal protective equipment (PPE) has long been considered the last line of defense for workers, and often draw the line between a “near miss” and a life changing injury or fatality. Whether it’s in the form of fall protection equipment, respiratory protection or flame resistant & arc rated clothing, employers are required to provide workers with adequate PPE for the job that is being completed.

Following our last blog looking at the hierarchy of risk controls in NFPA 70E (2018), we would today like to turn our attention to the 4 different Arc Flash PPE Categories in the standard, the clothing required for each category, as well as provide information on determining which PPE you need to use.

Please note, this blog is only intended to address the 4 PPE categories for those who elect to use tables 130.7 in lieu of completing an arc flash risk analysis.

Four Categories of Arc Flash PPE

The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E changed the way measurement is completed and PPE is selected. This most recent edition removed the concept of Hazard/Risk Categories and the option wear Non-FR/AR natural fiber garments in HRC 0 was eliminated. The standard now uses PPE categories which are based on an incident energy analysis.

NFPA 70E (2018) now gives four categories of PPE, with each category including the minimum Arc Rating value for the required PPE. The PPE manufacturer is required to obtain and identify these arc ratings in their products which, simply put, represents the amount of incident energy (in cal/cm2) on a material or a multilayered system of materials that results in a 50% probability to cause the onset of a second degree skin burn injury.  

A brief overview of each of these 4 PPE Categories is listed below:

PPE Category 1: Minimum Arc Rating 4 cal/cm2

PPE CAT 1 represents the lowest level in which Arc Rated PPE s required. Requiring a single layer of arc-rated PPE, workers need the following clothing:

  • Required Clothing: Long Sleeve Shirt (or Jacket) and Pants or AR Coverall with minimum arc rating of 4 cal/cm2
  • Required Face and Head Protection: Face Shield (with “wrap around” guarding…i.e balaclava) or Arc Flash Suit Hood
  • As Needed: Arc Rated Jacket, Rainwear, Parka, Hard Hat Liner

In addition to AR clothing, the following products are required or to be used as needed:

  • Required Hand Protection: Heavy-Duty Leather Gloves
  • Additional PPE: Hard Hat, Eye Protection (Glasses, Goggles), Hearing Protection
  • Footwear: Leather Footwear (as needed)

PPE Category 2: Minimum Arc Rating 8 cal/cm2

PPE CAT 2 can likely be met with a single layer of Arc Rated PPE. In fact, the majority of companies with exposures requiring CAT 1 typically opt for CAT 2 clothing to cover both categories. Today, the comfort of PPE CAT 1 and 2 is comparable so it makes more sense to choose CAT 2 clothing.

In PPE CAT 2, workers need the following clothing:

  • Required Clothing: Arc Rated Long Sleeve Shirt and Pants or Arc Rated Coverall with minimum arc rating of 8 cal/cm2
  • Required AR Face and Head Protection: Arc Rated Arc Flash Suit Hood or AR Face Shield, Sock Hood/Balaclava with minimum arc rating of 8 cal/cm2
  • As Needed: Arc Rated Jacket, Rainwear, Parka, Hard Hat Liner

In addition to AR clothing, the following products are required or to be used as needed:

  • Required Hand Protection: Heavy-Duty Leather Gloves
  • Additional PPE: Hard Hat, Eye Protection (Glasses, Goggles), Hearing Protection
  • Footwear: Leather Footwear (as needed)

Enespro PPE 8 CAL, 12 CAL, and 20 CAL Arc Flash Kits meet NFPA 70E-2018 PPE Cat 1 & 2 and they also offer breathable comfort, flexibility and durability.

PPE Category 3: Minimum Arc Rating 25 cal/cm2

PPE Category 3 and 4 require additional layers of PPE. Arc flash suit hoods are required and rubber insulating gloves & leather protectors or arc rated gloves are required. For PPE Category 3; workers need the following clothing:

  • Required Clothing: Arc Rated Flash Suit Jacket and AR pant or AR coverall with minimum arc rating of 25 cal/cm2
  • Required AR Face and Head Protection: Arc Rated Flash Suit Hood with minimum arc rating of 25 cal/cm2
  • Required AR Hand Protection: Rubber insulating gloves & leather protectors or arc rated gloves
  • As Needed: Arc Rated Jacket, Rainwear, Parka, Hard Hat Liner

In addition to AR clothing, the following PPE is required:

  • Additional PPE: Hard Hat, Eye Protection (Glasses, Goggles), Hearing Protection (inserts), Leather Footwear

PPE Category 4: Minimum Arc Rating 40 cal/cm2

The final PPE Category requires AR clothing with a minimum rating of 40 cal/cm2.

  • Required Clothing: Arc Rated Flash Suit Jacket and AR pant or AR coverall with minimum arc rating of 40 cal/cm2
  • Required AR Face and Head Protection: Arc Rated Flash Suit Hood with minimum arc rating of 40 cal/cm2
  • Required AR Hand Protection: Rubber insulating gloves & leather protectors or arc rated gloves
  • As Needed: Arc Rated Jacket, Rainwear, Parka, Hard Hat Liner

In addition to AR clothing, the following PPE is required:

  • Additional PPE: Hard Hat, Eye Protection (Glasses, Goggles), Hearing Protection (inserts), Leather Footwear

To meet the PPE requirements for CAT 4 work, we have two suits designed with an Arc Rating of 40+ cal/cm2. The 40 CAL Enespro Arc Flash Kit uses a dual layer of 9 oz Westex UltraSoft to offer a 45 cal/cm2 Arc Rating. Featuring ActiveCool Venting for breathability, this suit provides workers expected safety with unexpected comfort for a CAT 4 suit.

If you’re looking for the protection needed for PPE CAT 4, but the comfort comparable to a CAT 2 suit, our 40 CAL AirLite™ suits are 45% lighter than our standard 40 CAL suit and even 20% lighter than our 20 CAL suits. This super-lightweight suit has an Arc Rating of 43 Cal/cm2. Our full 40 CAL AirLite™ kits come with all of the arc rated PPE required for working in these environments (excluding gloves and boots).

See our entire line of Enespro PPE 40 CAL suits here.

Learn More

Enespro PPE was founded with the goal of transforming electrical safety PPE by providing USA-made products with multiple improvements that are truly meaningful to workers wearing the gear. Whether you are looking for voltage rated gloves, are in need of a hood & shield with better visibility and color recognition, or need a complete arc flash or glove kit, we have products available in-stock to handle your needs. Learn more about our company, sign up for our email list above, and view our complete line of products here.


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