Those who regularly work with flame and fire retardant (FR) clothing will be familiar with Arc Rating. For those who are wondering what the Arc Rating is, this process tests fabrics and garments based on their ability to protect the wearer from exposure to arc flash, by measuring the protecting performance of FR products. In order to advertise your garments as being arc flash protective, they have to be put through this testing process, where they’ll only pass if they prevent the skin receiving enough heat energy to record a second degree burn.
How do manufacturers determine if their garments are arc flash protective?
Previously companies manufacturing arc flash garments were required to carry out arc testing in order to determine an Arc Rating. This arc rating is expressed as either an ATPV (Arc Thermal Protection Value) which is the numerical value of incident energy where the heat transfer would give rise to a second degree burn with 50% probability, or an EBT (Energy Breakopen Threshold) which is the numerical value of incident energy where fabric breakopen occurs with 50% probability. The testing for this is done by replicating the thermal hazards of encountering an arc flash event.
So, why was the new Arc Rating brought in?
The European Union (EU) has never been happy with the fact that manufacturers only needed to guarantee 50% protection to deem the garments as protection against arc flash, meaning half the time wearer’s would be protected and the other half of the time they would not. Rightfully, they argue that wearer’s should be confident that the items they’re wearing are 100% effective.
This is where the ELIM (Energy Limit Value) was created, an Arc Rating based on 100% protection. The numerical value of incident energy attributed to a product, below which there is no data point with the amount of heat transmitted through the product reaching the Stoll criteria or with the product exhibiting breakopen.
What does this mean for wearers and buyers of arc flash clothing?
Where the Arc Rating was once determined by either the ATPV or EBT, this will now be replaced by the ELIM, meaning they’ll need to check their risk assessments carefully as the rating they used to work with will reduce.
Along with this, the pictogram used in garment labelling to identify if the garment has been tested and passed the arc test methods has been updated - see diagram below.
Therefore it is important to understand that new garments will carry the new arc symbol and new ELIM ratings will be displayed.
Which of Alsico’s garments comply with the new Arc Rating?
All our new flame and fire retardant knitwear has the new ELIM rating, along with our coveralls, jackets and trousers from the flame and fire retardant range. The rest of the range are all in progress of acquiring the ELIM rating.
You will notice when browsing our electric arc protection garments that currently they have the old pictogram, along with putting our garments through the testing process to acquire the ELIM rating, we are also currently updating all garments to bear the new pictogram.
What does Alsico think of the new Arc Rating?
Our technical sales manager, Phil Briggs, wrote the original document about the new method for Arc Rating. Being the resident expert, he has this to say on the matter: “The new method provides assurance that the arc rating now gives 100% protection - therefore providing even more protective assurance to end users. The main issue is that the old method has been so widely used that many people’s risk assessment would have been made using the old method. It requires that end users understand that ELIM will lower their arc rated clothing and they must reevaluate their risk assessments in order to determine whether the new value is still appropriate to protect against an electrical arc flash risk.”
And, there you have it. All in all, the changes to the Arc Rating score given will increase wearer’s safety, feeling more at ease that the chances of being severely injured in an arc flash accident are much lower. The responsibility falls with manufacturers to ensure that their electric arc garments are put through the testing process to qualify for an ELIM rating, at Alsico it is our absolute priority to maximise our customers’ safety at work. This way, provided end users are checking their most recent risk assessment and that the newly updated pictogram features in any new garments they buy, they can rest assured that staff are sufficiently protected against an electric arc flash whilst at work.
Should you require any further information or assistance when browsing our range of protective clothing against the arc flash, please contact a member of our sales team on 01772 662500 and they’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.