Watch: The PPE tests that you need to see

Watch: The PPE tests that you need to see

Arc Flash vs. Cotton Baselayers

Making the right PPE choices for your team can be a real challenge. You must weigh up several factors: comfort, fit, durability and value for money to name but a few.

But what can happen when you start to mix a variety of garments that offer different levels of protection or meet different standards? Does seeking optimum comfort whilst trying to hit a budget compromise the protection wearers receive in their last line of defence? We decided to find out, so you didn’t have to.

Baselayers & Layering

The risk of mixing non-Arc layers with Arc Rated clothing


We find baselayers to be a key topic when speaking to wearers. The most common thought is that if standard clothing is worn underneath an Arc rated polo (or similar) that they are still protected. This is due to the outer layer of their clothing system being compliant. However, when you look at the test above this can be an extremely dangerous game to play.

Due to the violent nature of an Arc Flash incident, wearing a standard cotton layer or worse a polycotton or polyester layer alongside an Arc rated solution can still lead to significant injuries for the wearer. With temperatures hitting 19,000°C the heat can lead to the cotton layers underneath melting – catastrophically compromising the wearer’s protection. Even if you’re fortunate enough for your outer layer to remain intact.

When you compare the results on the right to the ones on the left the difference in performance is clear. It’s important to make sure you have a specified layering system in place to prevent the likelihood of operatives using standard clothing as a baselayer and putting themselves at increased risk of injury.

The Importance of Arc Flash Education

With 25% of employers believing that it’s the sole responsibility of the individual employee to protect themselves against Arc Flash and 50% considering it to be the employee’s responsibility to self-educate about Arc Flash, the importance of education has never been more prominent. Smart working procedures alongside strong knowledge of the risks will lead to fewer operatives taking risks with their last line of defence.

You can read more about this and other misconceptions about Arc Flash PPE in our article here. We also have more information on layering and how this can increase protection as part of a PPE solution here.