Arc flash- and flash fire-protective garments can now be certified by an ASTM International subsidiary, Safety Equipment Institute (SEI): SEI has become a subsidiary of ASTM International. This merger will mean a better, more cost-effective way to specify arc flash and flash fire PPE.
Before this merger, most companies did their own testing for arc flash, and only one (for-profit) company was doing flash fire certification. With the merger, SEI will be the recognized standard bearer for all PPE with ASTM standard testing.
ASTM International is one of the most recognized standards organizations in the world, and SEI is a not-for-profit, third-party, ISO 17065-accredited certification body. The organizations share a common goal of improving product safety and end-user confidence.
The merger will drive ASTM International to step into the product certification realm of PPE. This is a stringent process requiring third-party testing and plant audits of manufacturers, with the final product being a stamp of approval and oversight by the certification body of products put into the market.
In recent years, conformity assessment and certification have been hot topics in the PPE industry. Most products and materials tested in accordance with NFPA 70E currently rely on self-certification, meaning manufacturers can perform testing in-house or out-of-house and label their products as compliant. Unlike the EU, which has a formal PPE directive that requires all PPE to bear a CE marking, the U.S. lacks uniform processes when it comes to testing and certifying PPE products. The NFPA 2112 standard required third-party certification, but the primary company offering this certification did not accept other accreditation bodies’ component certification, creating a confusing and expensive process which has held back innovation and industry growth. With ASTM recognition of the strong certification processes of the only U.S.-based not-for-profit certification body (SEI), the tide of certification will change.
In 2014, ANSI/ISEA published standard 125, American National Standard on Conformity Assessment of Safety and Personal Protective Equipment. ANSI/ISEA 125 has been proposed for inclusion in NFPA 70E, and another conformity assessment standard is underway at ASTM. The ANSI/ISEA 125 is much like the EU PPE Directive, but lack of adoption into any current standards and other industry practices has stalled its use.
The adoption of ANSI/ISEA 125–or the proposed ASTM conformance standard into PPE specifications–could mean more third-party certification requirements for safety and personal protective equipment, such as NIOSH has provided for respiratory protection and SEI and UL have provided for fire fighters’ gear. Further, the merger will create an expansion of service, allowing ASTM to participate in certifications under the SEI umbrella, and provide choices for PPE manufacturers on where to have their products tested and/or certified. This also means end users and safety directors will have a voice in the level of testing and certification required by their company. We look forward to the certainty and stability this merger can bring PPE in the U.S. market.
Our sister company and testing laboratory, ArcWear, has long served on ASTM standards development committees and serviced the PPE community. ArcWear is proud to congratulate their FlashCert process partner, SEI, on this exciting collaboration. e-Hazard will keep the electrical safety community updated on all developments resulting from the merger and the availability of ASTM/SEI certifications for products.