Page 84 - OHS, June 2022
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Next Level Innovation
For years, industrial companies have selected 8 to 12 cal arc rated shirts and pants and have not abandoned their original investment decisions to transition to arc-rated, task-based PPE kits for good reason. The on-going innovation in arc-rated protective fabric technologies continues to drive improved user comfort and conformity with lighter fabrics, that stretch, have a better appearance and quick- dry technologies that make daily wear apparel more acceptable than many of the best options available five to ten years ago.
More recently, added advancements that borrow from fabric technologies born in the U.S. military include “Phase- Change” materials that optimize cooling performance by helping moist movement but also store body energy to keep workers warmer in cool or frigid conditions. These multi-fiber blends deliver a significantly improved experience over the first generation of single or two fiber aramid or cotton blend AR/FR fabrics. The science includes fabrics that have hydrophilic fibers that wick and draw moisture away from the body in combination with hydrophobic fiber blends that push moisture out of the fabric to create a superior moisture managing system that dries quick and delivers cooling or warming functions at the fabric level of the garment.
Since these advancements are available in a variety of shirt, pant and seasonal outwear options, it appears that the market of current users of daily wear aren’t converting from protective clothing purchasing practices to personally assigned PPE kits any time soon. Also, expanded services by rental companies to provide customers with added PPE options to include innovative head and hand protective kits offered in conjunction with CAT2 arc-rated daily wear, further galvanizes long-term user commitments to arc-rated daily wear apparel for the majority of the industrial market for tasks at or less than 12 cal/cm2.
The manufacturers of arc-rated task-based kits focus on electrical PPE solutions with arc ratings greater than 25 cal/cm2. Most common users of task-based electrical PPE are electrical contractors that conduct on-going electrical maintenance, the construction industry and smaller workgroups in the
electrical utility industry with exposure to higher incident energy in underground network, substation, and generation work environments. Typical usage is very brief to properly de-energize a circuit or enclosure prior to performing other tasks. This segment of the arc flash safety industry historically has been stagnant, lacking on-going innovation to improve the user experience. However, in the last five years, new arc flash PPE brands from reliable U.S. manufacturers focusing on resolving the age-old problems with uncomfortable and difficult to wear arc flash safety gear have revolutionized arc flash PPE.
New arc flash PPE has design advancements that include lightweight fabric systems and other user-friendly features such as improved mobility and airflow in head protection. These features, combined with design improvements, make it easier to put on and take off. These significant improvements to electrical PPE keep traditional users of task-based kits from changed spending or buying practices to move to arc rated daily wear.
BestApproachtoMid-LevelEnergy Ranges
With these technology advancements keeping users and buyers locked into CAT2 and 40 cal arc flash PPE, the question is
what is the best overall approach for situations that fall into the middle, generally the rarer incident energy ranges of 13 - 25 cal/cm2? These are several of the many important considerations employers evaluate before making safety purchasing decisions on arc rated layered daily wear or arc flash PPE kit systems to cover this range of arc flash protective needs:
Are there protective differences in layered garments versus arc flash suits? No, we first need to rule out any questions or concerns about protective differences between AR/FR layered apparel compared to a two-layer arc flash suit manufactured with the same fabric combination. The ASTM F1959 test method (Standard test Method for Determining the Arc Rating of Materials for Clothing) is a method to determine the arc rating of material or a combination of materials. It is important to know that the test method does not test garments, but in a rigorous and standardized process is designed to calculate the arc rating of single or multilayer systems of FR layers.
As mentioned by Brian Shield, Service Line Manager for ArcWear, “Using an arc flash suit or layering independent garments are simply different means to the same end. Protection feel does not change based on the technique used to achieve it. For example, a 20-cal rating provides 20
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