Does Winter Wear or Rainwear for an Electrical Worker have to be Arc Rated or Just FR?

red background with burning question

Q: Does winter wear or rainwear worn by an electrical worker have to be AR or just FR?

A: Standards including NFPA 70E and OSHA 1910.269 require garments not to increase burns in the event of an arc flash.

Both prohibit melting materials like polyester and nylon from being worn unless they are arc rated in blends.

While your rain-wear or winter-wear does not have to be your primary source of protection (you can wear a very lightweight rain suit with minimal protection levels, perhaps as low as 5 cal/cm2), those articles CANNOT increase injury or melt onto a worker. So how do we accomplish this? OSHA , in 2014, states in 1910.269(l)(8)(iii) that the “employer shall ensure that each employee who is exposed to hazards from flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that could…melt onto his or her skin or that could ignite and continue to burn when exposed… and …. prohibits clothing made from acetate, nylon, polyester, rayon and polypropylene, either alone or in blends, unless the employer demonstrates that the fabric has been treated to withstand the conditions that may be encountered by the employee or that the employee wears the clothing in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard involved.” Additionally, 1910.269(l)(8)(iv) reads, “The employer shall ensure that the outer layer of clothing worn by an employee …. is flame resistant under any of the following conditions:

  • The employee is exposed to contact with energized circuit parts operating at more than 600 volts,
  • An electric arc could ignite flammable material in the work area that, in turn, could ignite the employee’s clothing,
  • Molten metal or electric arcs from faulted conductors in the work area could ignite the employee’s clothing, or
  • The incident heat energy estimated … exceeds 2.0 cal/cm2.

NFPA 70E similarly includes “parkas and rain wear” in a list of garments that may not be primary protection but are required to be arc rated (AR):

130.7(C)(9)(b) “Outer Layers. Garments worn as outer layers over arc-rated clothing, such as jackets or rainwear, shall also be made from arc-rated material.”

ASTM F2302 was the minimum standard for labeling clothing as heat and flame resistant but has been withdrawn as of February 2017 due to abuse. This standard is not cited in OSHA 1910.269 or NFPA 70E because the standard includes only two small scale methods. The oven and vertical flame tests used in ASTM F2302 do not replicate large scale flash fire or arc flash testing, and the small scale methods alone do not exclude all melting materials; therefore, FR clothing labeled solely as compliant to ASTM F2302 does not provide adequate protection from an arcing event. ASTM F2302 had NO correlation to any hazard assessment criteria either. 

OSHA and NFPA 70E do not allow melting materials to be considered as “FR” unless they are arc rated in blends.  Many companies have been fooled with ASTM F2302 which is a now withdrawn standard for minimum FR.  Melting materials would pass the 2003 and 2008 version (especially FR rainwear), but these would NOT be acceptable for an arc or a flash fire exposure.

ONLY use arc or flash fire rated garments in the respective exposures.

e-Hazard recommends following the guidelines listed above in NFPA 70E to ensure appropriate personnel protection.

Have a question about electrical safety and standards? Ask us here OR on our forum!

 

Hugh Hoagland

Hugh Hoagland

Hugh Hoagland is the foremost tester of clothing and PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Read more about Hugh.

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3 Responses

  1. If I have a outwear garment (rainwear, traffic vests) that is compliant to NFPA 70E and on the label list ASTM 1506 for arc flash, is this garment only to be worn in in Arc flash exposures? If I was exposed only to flash fires (gas, oil) would the outer garment (rain wear, traffic vests) have to labeled compliant to NFPA 2112? If I was exposed to arc flash and flash fire environments, would the outer wear garment ( rainwear, traffic vests) need to be labeled as complaint to NFPA 70E and NFPA 2112?

    1. The company’s hazard assessment must decide on protection levels of PPE. If workers are exposed to a flash fire AND an electric arc the company must assure the workers are protected. It would be great if EVERY flame and thermal standard was completely the same BUT this is not the case sometimes. Modern standards like ASTM F1506 and NFPA 2112 have pared the small scale standards in favor of large scale testing.

      NFPA 2112 has a small scale test which excludes materials which have thermal shrinkage. This small scale test is useful for primary garments. This test is not required in ASTM F1506.

      IF a high visibility vest meets ASTM F1506 it is our opinion at this time that the vest would not increase burn in a flash fire but most of those vests will not meet the oven shrink requirement in NFPA 2112. Perhaps it would not be the best protective garment as a primary garment (this is from old standards) but from your hazard assessment your company must decide if that vest meets your requirements. NFPA 2112 does not require that EVERYTHING meet it when worn in a hazard.

      Many companies wear high visibility modacrylic vests which meet ASTM F1506 and ANSI 107 for possible flash fire exposures. Only in the past few years have materials meeting NFPA 2112 AND ANSI 107 been available BUT they are heavier to meet the direct flash fire exposure in ASTM F1930 but if they are not the primary protective garment, this may not be determined to be necessary for a secondary garment like a high visibility vest. Most of our clients use ASTM F1506 vests over their primary garment meeting NFPA 2112. Those adding an NFPA 2112 vest OVER a NFPA 2112 primary garment may add more protection but they may just incur unnecessary cost and add weight to the worker. This may be addressed by standards in the future.

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