The recently updated ASTM F2621 now allows for the evaluation of non-Arc-Rated products in an electric arc exposure. The Standard had previously limited evaluations to only arc-rated products. This prevented users for evaluating products that were necessary for the job, but were not available with an arc-rating.
Why expose non-Arc-Rated products to an electric arc?
There are many instances where electrical work is performed in areas with multiple hazards. The secondary hazards may require other specialty PPE products. Some products don’t have any Standard Test Methods designed to provide an arc-rating. But product manufacturers and end-users need to perform due diligence before placing the product into service. ASTM F2621 can now shed light on what happens to these products when they are exposed to the arc.
One example would be a respirator. A respirator is imperative when electrical work is required in an area with a hazardous environment. But there is no standard to assign an arc rating to respirators. Being able to visualize how the respirator would respond to an arc exposure is a key due diligence step. If the non-arc-rated product doesn’t ignite in the exposure, it’s likely that it will not contribute to the extent of any burn injuries. However, knowing that the respirator ignites and melts onto the manikin can help to avoid catastrophic failure in the field.
What are the limitations?
It’s very important to recognize that this product evaluation does not provide an arc-rating on these products. It is simply a tool to evaluate how the product would respond in the exposure. And, like all arc testing, it does not replicate all types of arc exposures.
What does NFPA 70E say?
NFPA 70E still has a bit of a disconnect when it comes to non-arc-rated products. The PPE section of that Standard is really geared toward arc-rated products. There are clauses that effectively say products can’t contribute to burn injuries. NFPA 70E has clear allowances for low-melting materials, “if they are arc-rated and do not exhibit evidence of melting and dripping during arc testing.” This update to ASTM F2621 does allow us to evaluate for a product’s melt/drip response to the arc exposure. But remember, F2621 cannot provide an arc rating for non-arc-rated products.