When determining what type of protective clothing to purchase, the first thing specified by a significant number of safety professionals is the flame-resistant (FR) or arc-rated fabric brand. The number, type and source of these fabrics have expanded dramatically in the last few years as new offerings chase profits in an expanding market. There have also recently been significant failures, making it more critical than ever to thoroughly research and select trusted, market-proven brands. These failures can occur on several levels; one recent issue involved the failure of a fabric to be flame resistant when new, while another involved FR failure after laundering. Other failure modes include huge numbers of garments that had to be removed from service within months instead of years due to very high shrinkage, and a dire situation in which the fabric itself was toxic, resulting in the hospitalization of more than 100 lineworkers in Australia.
Is 100 percent cotton protective in an electric arc flash? While lab tests say so, real life experiences say no!
It is widely understood that clothing made from non-flame resistant synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, nylon and polyester/cotton blends, are not appropriate when working on or near electrically energized parts and equipment. If these garments are exposed to an electric arc flash, they can ignite, melt and drip, which can lead to severe contact burns to the skin. In fact, the OSHA 1910.269 and NFPA 70E standards prohibit this type of clothing.