Electric Arc Flash Protection: FR Jeans vs. Non-FR Jeans
Electrical safety should be taken very seriously as arc flash is one of the most prevalent hazards when working around energized parts.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI):
- Electrical accidents cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries in the workplace each year, and
- Electrical injuries in general ranked sixth in work-related deaths in the U.S. (1)
Fortunately, FR clothing has seen a wave of innovation and improvements over the years. This is particularly true for FR jeans that used to be constructed of incredibly stiff and uncomfortable denim. Now, FR jeans look and feel as great as their non-FR counterparts while providing arc flash protection and flame resistance.
Tyndale recently worked with Hugh Hoagland from www.ArcWear.com to show the difference between FR and non-FR jeans in an electric arc flash test. This video is particularly relevant for a worker performing tasks on equipment below the waist (like a pad mount transformer). It is also important for workers conducting activities at the chest level if the arc flash happens to flow directionally downwards.
Unforeseen risks come from incidents where energy levels are higher than calculated, like when a breaker doesn’t trip on time, or if a worker is standing closer to energized equipment than expected. This video of the testing is a valuable demonstration of why it is important to protect both the upper and lower body with FR clothing.
As the video shows, cotton fabric can and will ignite, and continue to burn if exposed to an ignition source. The non-FR jeans tested are made of 100% cotton, and continue to burn after the source of flame is removed (on the left). However, the FR jeans immediately self-extinguish (on the right). It should be noted that this is a fairly high-energy exposure, and not all arc exposures will cause non-FR jeans to ignite.
The primary idea behind protecting employees is limiting their exposure to potential hazards on the job. In the event of the unthinkable, the use of FR jeans will limit an employee’s exposure to an arc flash and maximize on the quality of life the employee can regain after such an incident.
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References for this post were accessed September 2013: