AR? FR? What do I need?

Differences between Flame Resistant & Arc Flash Clothing

FR Clothing

Welcome to the Critical Tool Blog! Many of the topics we’ll be covering will attempt to answer or clarify questions that you, our customers, have asked. For our inaugural post we are going to address AR (Arc Flash) vs. FR (Flame Resistant) PPE.

What is Arc Flash Clothing?

Arc Flash PPE is specifically designed and tested for use in an environment where there is a potential for a high voltage spark (arc flash) to occur. While very short in duration, these arcs generate high temperatures (up to 35,000 F) that can be explosive in nature (an arc blast). The correct PPE will protect against the heat as well as molten metal that may be ejected in a blast. The standard for this PPE has been established by the National Fire Protection Association as NFPA 70E. It’s easy to remember this standard because of the “E” (electrical) at the end. Critical Tool offers a comprehensive selection of arc flash protective clothing/gear, electrical gloves/glove kits, and arc flash head and face protection that are all NFPA 70E certified.

Flame Resistant (FR) Clothing Benefits

For environments where there is a potential for combustion (Flash Fire) due to things such as gases, fumes or dust, the standard for PPE is NFPA 2112. This standard certifies that the clothing is inherently resistant to catching fire as most injuries in a flash fire occur when a person’s clothing catches fire and continues to burn after the flash fire has passed. Wearing properly certified FR clothing will greatly increase not only the chances of surviving a flash fire, but also the chances of avoiding the most serious burn injuries that can occur. Our Flame Resistant Clothing selection makes it easy to find the PPE you need to be safe on the job.

It has been said that at a basic level, all AR clothing is FR but not all FR clothing is AR. This is technically true, but it is more accurate to say that all AR clothing will offer some measure of FR protection. To pass NFPA 2112 certification, actual finished garments must be tested, not just the material that the garments are made from. If the environment you will be working in has the risk of a flash fire, you must select PPE that is NFPA 2112 certified.

What if I need protection against Arc Flash AND Flash Fire?

Many garments have been tested and certified for both NFPA 70E and NFPA 2112. These dual-certified products will offer the needed protection regardless of which hazard may occur, such as the Portwest FR94-series coveralls.

Another category that is often called FR is Self Extinguishing or SE. These garments are made from traditional materials that are then treated with chemicals to cause them to self extinguish within two seconds if they should catch fire. The rating for these garments is NFPA 701. This standard does not meet OSHA requirements for workers who may be exposed to a flash fire or arc flash; it was primarily intended for consumer products such as draperies and furniture.

Dive Deeper

Arc Flash PPE that is NFPA 70E certified will have a rating based on ATPV (Arc Thermal Performance Value), expressed as cal/cm2 (calories per square centimeter). The higher the number the greater the protection. For any jobsite or project, a hazard assessment should be performed, and this assessment should indicate the minimum level of protection required. It is imperative that the PPE used meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of your hazard assessment. NFPA formerly referenced Hazard Risk Categories (HRC) from 1 to 4 and the minimum arc rating for each category. FR rated PPE requires more extensive testing than arc rated protection. In this case, actual sewn garments must be tested to ensure that they meet NFPA 2112 standards. These garments are certified to be inherently resistant to catching fire should a flash fire occur. Our selection of FR clothing has what you should need to be safe from head-to-toe. As with arc flash PPE, a hazard assessment should be performed to determine the level of protection needed.

Layering FR and AR Workwear is important for Best Protection

AR and FR protection extends beyond the shoulder-to-ankle protection of a coverall, bib/jacket combo, or shirt and pants. You should protect your hands and head as well. Our Arc Flash Clothing Kits come complete with the proper headgear you will need to protect your face and head. In addition, our Insulated Rubber Electrical Glove Kits include both the rubber insulating gloves (in class 00 through Class 4) and the leather protector gloves in a handy canvas storage bag. The rubber gloves come stamped with both the date of manufacture and the service date and are certified for six months as long as they are properly maintained.

We also carry a selection of face shields, Arc Flash balaclavas, neck gaiters, and hoods to keep your face attached in the event of an arc flash event. We cannot stress enough that a hazard/risk assessment must be performed to determine the level of needed protection.

FR clothing is available in a wide range of options, including shirts, pants (cargo and Flame Resistant Stretch Denim Jeans), coveralls, jackets, and bib overalls and from top manufacturers such as OEL, PIP, Portwest and Radians. Comfort is important! The worst PPE is the clothing that isn’t worn. Always make sure that your FR clothing fits properly, is well maintained, and is comfortable.

Our tagline “When Safety is Critical” is a reminder that safety is ALWAYS critical regardless of the level of hazards on the job. When in doubt, talk to your company safety manager, familiarize yourself with your safety manual, and know what is needed to be sure that you are wearing the correct PPE. Our Critical Mission is to get you home in one piece every day. Let us know if you have any questions about the PPE we provide and any comments or feedback. Take care and stay safe!