Arc flash labels – why it’s important to read and understand them

Arc flash labels – why it’s important to read and understand them

Electrical equipment requires a wide range of labelling to ensure that people working on or near it are aware of the hazards it could present.

In the case of arc flash labels, there are a number of key pieces of information you need to look for and understand in order to be sure that you would be protected in the event of an incident.

Labels complement the hierarchy of control , which is critical to preventing incidents, allowing you to make an informed assessment of whether or not your PPE is suitable for the task you’re about to carry out.

Arc flash labels – what they show

Labels on equipment with the potential to create an arc flash vary because there is no standard specifying what should be included, but the most helpful will contain information on:

  • Flash protection boundary – if an arc flash study  has been carried out the label will show a distance at which the calculated incident energy is expected
  • Minimum arc rating – shown in calories/cm2 or joules/cm2, this is the critical number you need, as it’s what enables you to work out whether or not your protective clothing offers sufficient protection
  • Arc flash boundary – the minimum distance at which a person would receive potentially permanent injuries in the event of an arc flash incident if not properly protected by arc flash clothing – not simply fire-resistant (FR) clothing
  • Shock hazard – the voltage of the equipment

Making sure you have the right arc flash protection

With information about the minimum arc rating of the equipment, you’re about to work on you can get advice about the right type and level of protective clothing to wear.

Protecting yourself from the potentially life-changing or life-ending impacts of an arc flash isn’t just about your top layer of clothing, it’s about everything from your gloves to your base layers, your coverall to your boots.

All of these elements will play a critical role in ensuring you have the best chance of minimising injuries if you are unfortunate enough to be caught up in an arc flash incident. For an insight into what that’s like, take a look at our video featuring Eddie, whose life was saved by his ProGARM PPE when he was struck by an arc flash while working for construction firm Clancy Dowra.

The significance of layers

If you are caught up in an arc flash you could be exposed to temperatures in excess of 19,000 degrees – hotter than the sun. And although they typically last just fractions of seconds, that’s enough time to cause horrific injuries. It’s critical that every layer of your clothing works to provide protection, not compromise it.

If you’re wearing synthetic socks or underwear, those kinds of temperatures can melt it into your skin. Even if you have an arc flash-rated coverall on top, these lower layers can make your injuries worse. Wearing natural fibres which won’t necessarily increase your injuries, but laboratory tests have shown that wearing a series of arc-rated layers is substantially more effective at reducing burns than simply having one arc-rated top layer.

Layering isn’t as simple as just adding up the numbers to get the right level of protection, so call one of our experts who can talk you through what clothing you will need to protect you and your team against the arc flash hazards you have identified. Give us a call today to talk about your arc flash PPE needs on 01482 679600.

Make the right protection choices for you and your team

Read our free guide on the top considerations when choosing Arc Flash clothing & PPE below and make the best choice for you and your team via the link below ⬇.