Is flame-resistant clothing the same as Arc rated clothing?

Is flame-resistant clothing the same as Arc rated clothing?

Many people ask if flame-resistant (otherwise known as fire retardant) protective clothing is the same as Arc Flash protective clothing.

While all ProGARM Arc Flash safety clothing is flame resistant, not all flame-resistant clothing would provide protection in an Arc Flash incident.

To be as safe as possible, it’s crucial you wear the right type of protective clothing, appropriate to the nature of your work and your task risk assessments and method statements.

What’s the difference between flame-resistant and Arc Flash clothing?

At ProGARM we recognise that there’s a huge difference between clothing that can resist fire and garments that are designed to protect the wearer from the intense burst of energy released in an Arc Flash incident.

For example, in a room containing around 21% oxygen (the average for normal air), temperatures five feet from the floor can be over 300 degrees C in a fire.

Even if the environment contained a combination of pure Oxygen and Acetylene (through an explosion of a welding torch canister for example) the hottest fire it would cause is one that burns at around 3,000 degrees C.

To survive a fire in those kinds of temperatures safely, it’s perfectly true that you would need high-quality flame resistant clothing.

But this kind of temperature pales into insignificance compared to the 19,000 degrees C of an Arc Flash explosion that can reach people working up to six metres away within fractions of a second.

An Arc Flash happens when a short circuit or electrical discharge creates an arc of electricity moving through the air in a potentially fatal intense flash of energy – often through a cable strike, a dropped tool or a circuit fault.

In that split second, the temperature can become as hot as the surface of the sun, a pressure wave can throw workers across a room, a sound blast can rupture ear drums and the brightness can cause damage to your eyes.

Protect yourself and your team from both Arc Flash and fire risks

It’s for these reasons that anyone working in live electrical environments – even environments of low voltage – should have personal protective equipment and clothing that can provide a potentially life-saving last line of defence.

We extensively test all the individual materials – the fabrics, threads and components (such as zips, press studs and Velcro® fastenings) – that we use in our ProGARM clothing against such Arc Flash incidents. 

It’s often the difference in standards of the individual parts which are the biggest differentiator in Flame Resistant and Arc Flash safety wear. 

By using components that stay intact and don’t melt, the garment can be removed more easily from someone caught in an Arc Flash, making it possible to administer life-saving first aid more quickly.

But we don’t end there. Once we’ve made the garment, we test the finished item again to make sure it remains intact after being exposed to an Arc Flash.

While flame resistant garments may provide some protection in an Arc Flash incident, they’re not specifically designed and manufactured to stand up to the intensity of it and are likely to be inadequate.

We lead the way in Arc rated safety clothing, testing to either the Open Arc Test Method or the Box Test Method to make sure they comply with Arc Flash safety standards. It’s through these tests that the significant differences in Flame Resistant and Arc rated clothing are revealed.

If you want to speak to one of our sector experts about our Arc Flash and fire-resistant PPE, including how important user acceptance testing for Arc Flash PPE is, give us a call on 44 (0) 1482 679600 or use our website’s LiveChat feature to speak to a specialist member of our team for guidance.

Make sure that you’re specifying the right PPE for 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 ⬇.

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