February 15, 2019

Back to the Basics: What is a PPE Category (previously known as Hazard Risk Category or HRC)?

Q: Our customer is specifying “HRC 2”. What does this mean?

A: Hazard Risk Categories (HRC) was a term coined by NFPA 70E-2000 to “group” levels of PPE with a goal of simplifying PPE programs for end users. The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E replaced the term “HRC” with “PPE Categories” since the risk assessment part of the standard was separated to comply with OSHA requirements and standard requirements such as ISO 45001.

NFPA 70E-2018 PPE Categories:

PPE CategoryArc Rating (minimum)
14 cal/cm²
28 cal/cm²
325 cal/cm²
440 cal/cm²

It’s common to see both “HRC” and “PPE Category” on garment labels to indicate the arc rating of the garment. You might also see “ARC 2” on garment labels–this is a shorthand term for the terms to specify that they are for arc flash.

A common mistake of hazard assessment is to label equipment that has an 8.1 cal/cm² exposure as PPE Category 3. This is incorrect but a misunderstanding of the old HRC levels by the 2002 version of IEEE 1584 which has been corrected in the IEEE 1584-2108 standard. The PPE Categories are technically ONLY applicable when you have done your risk assessment following the NFPA 70E Tables. If you have done incident energy calculations the PPE should MATCH the hazard or be greater. This does not preclude an employer from using 25 cal/cm² PPE Category 3 PPE for all exposures UNDER 25 cal/cm² but they are not required to do so. Many engineering companies who used the common arc flash calculation software packages defaulted to this mistake.

If your end users need assistance with their electrical safety hazard assessment or want a check of their arc flash study or risk assessment, they can contact our partner company e-Hazard Management, LLC by clicking this link. e-Hazard specializes in NFPA 70E and IEEE 1584 arc flash risk assessments.

2 Comments on “Back to the Basics: What is a PPE Category (previously known as Hazard Risk Category or HRC)?

Ruben Larez
May 8, 2019 at 7:48 pm

Another coined term I see a lot is “FR” instead of “AR”. As electrician’s we want to look for FR that has been tested to electric arc exposure. I’m sure it will eventually come around but I think it’s more of a marketing thing than anything. It’s unfortunate there are electricians who are qualified to do their jobs/tasks but employers haven’t had their technicians trained properly, or at all, in electrical safety therefore not qualified by NFPA 70E definition. And are they receiving proper training, per 1910.132(f)(1)(i) – (v), which would include this type of training. Manufacturer’s are still selling the arc rated shirts as “HRC” rated. Whatever sells right?

Hugh Hoagland
June 6, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Many clothing companies haven’t changed to the new term but FR with an arc rating IS AR. Looking for the right garment and matching to the hazard is the key!


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