How to compare Arc Flash PPE for the Industrial Electrical sector

How to compare Arc Flash PPE for the Industrial Electrical sector

When you work in the Industrial Electrical sector – on power lines, in distribution centres or on industrial power supply maintenance for example – you know that Arc Flash incidents are just as possible in both high and low voltage environments.

You’re perhaps also more informed than most about the frequency of Arc Flash incidents in the UK each year, the need for Arc Flash PPE and more acutely aware that they can leave families devasted by the impact of life-changing injuries or bereavement.

Thanks to your high awareness of the risks and consequences, your understanding of the importance of having, maintaining and properly wearing adequate Arc Flash PPE also tends to be higher.

So this detailed article isn’t to explain why you should be wearing Arc Flash clothing, but does outline some of the things to look out for when comparing brands for suitable products.

What to look for when comparing Arc Flash PPE

1. Treated or Inherent Arc Flash Garments?

Is the flame resistance provided through treated fabrics or is it inherent? Fabrics used to make Arc Flash clothing which have been treated with chemicals to provide flame resistant properties can lose their effectiveness over time as they’re washed and dried.

To compensate for this, treated fabrics should be re-treated periodically – often recommended every 50 washes. Unfortunately, when Arc Flash PPE is washed at home, there are often no records kept of how many times they have been washed, which means employers can lose an essential audit trail from their safety processes.

Arc Flash garments that contain treated fabrics also often contain formaldehyde (a known carcinogenic). This is widely used in textiles for a variety of reasons and, in the absence of European legislation, there are two main voluntary labelling schemes in Europe setting different recommended safe levels for the substance.

European Ecolabel (Commission Decision 2002/371/EC) sets a maximum limit of 30mg of Formaldehyde per Kg for fabrics coming into contact with skin, while the private Oeko-Tex Standard 100 sets a higher maximum limit of 75mg/Kg.

In 2017, the European Commission and the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection produced a joint survey into the release of formaldehyde from textiles.

Their triplicate tests using a water extraction method found 11% of fabric samples tested (from products available to buy which were intended to come into contact with skin) exceeded the Ecolabel 30mg/Kg limit and 3% exceeded the 75mg/Kg limit considered safe for adults by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100.

If you’re considering buying a treated FR product, we recommend asking your supplier to provide test results that show the level of Formaldehyde used in their fabrics.

All ProGARM Arc Flash PPE utilise VXS+ fabrics are 100% inherent and are not chemically treated. This has the added advantage of not reducing the flame resistant properties within our Arc Flash garments when being washed in accordance with care label instructions.

2. Components of Arc Flash PPE

Check that all zips, buttons, hook and loop strips (such as Velcro® Brand fasteners), press studs and stitching threads can withstand Arc Flash incidents.

At ProGARM all of our Arc Flash PPE use ThermSAFE components and threads use a military grade polymer to make sure they’re not only flame resistant (and/or Anti-static) but will also still function even after being exposed to the extreme temperatures of an Arc Flash.

This means that parts of your Arc Flash PPE that have taken the brunt of the damage can still be removed quickly and easily by trained First Aiders or Paramedics to allow faster treatment of burns or shrapnel injuries.

3. Durability of Arc Flash PPE

Make sure you compare any claims about the durability of your Arc Flash PPE and check that they’re all claims are verified through rigorous independent testing. This will include claims relating to Arc flash PPE and it’s anticipated life span (assuming incident free and looked after in line with the care label) and any guarantees.

Testing and customer feedback on ProGARM Arc Flash PPE have been shown to withstand the rigours of everyday use and still last up to 70% longer than competitor Arc Flash PPE thanks to our superior fabrics, components and our exceptional seam quality which comes with a lifetime structural guarantee.

4. Caring for Arc Flash PPE

Whether your company policy states that Arc Flash PPE must be professionally washed or washed at home, make sure you compare Arc Flash PPE care labels to make sure they’re suitable for your needs.

We also recommend asking for any industrial wash test results which will give you an idea of how well your Arc Flash clothing will last when subjected to regular cleaning.

ProGARM Arc Flash PPE exceed the requirement of EN11612 standard (which governs protective clothing) by 45 industrial wash tests.

5. Comfort & Practicality of Arc Flash PPE

This may sound like a luxury, but our experience in this sector tells us that when employees are frustrated by the stiffness, lack of stretch, ill-fitting or badly designed pocket placement on their Arc Flash PPE, that’s when they’re likely to break rules and roll up the sleeves, remove them altogether or wash them many times to soften them (which has an impact on flame resistance in treated garments).

If possible, always ask for samples of the Arc Flash PPE you’re considering from the suppliers and run them by the people who’ll be wearing them.

Here at ProGARM we’re constantly looking at ways to improve the designs of our Arc Flash PPE and other protective products, and are happy to take bespoke order requirements if you have specific needs.

6. Arc Flash PPE: Appropriate hazard protection

This is an obvious one, but make sure you always check the specification of your Arc Flash PPE to make sure the products you’re comparing are like for like and offer the required protections for the tasks.

All ProGARM Arc Flash PPE is clearly labelled with our SafetyICON system that provides assurance that your teams are selecting the right Arc Flash PPE for the job.

7. Cost of Arc Flash PPE

We would never recommend that you buy Arc Flash PPE solely based on price, as this is likely to lead to you buying an inferior product which will not stand the test of time and may be inadequate Arc Flash PPE to effectively protect you or your workforce in the event of an incident.

We do understand that there are practical cost considerations to your investment decision though and advise you to look at the anticipated lifecycle and durability of the Arc Flash clothing you’ve shortlisted to consider which Arc Flash PPE offer the best value for money while meeting all your safety standard needs.

For more information about any of our ProGARM Arc Flash PPE, independent lab test results or to discuss bespoke requirements or samples of our Arc Flash PPE, please get in touch with us on +44 (0) 1482 679 600 and one of our Industrial Electrical sector specialists will be glad to help you.