April 16, 2020

FR/AR Cloth Face Covering Guidance Proposed to ASTM: What Do I do Until Then?

Since the CDC cloth face coverings recommendations were handed down, ArcWear has been working with the ASTM F18 committee to provide guidance to manufacturers on the CDC recommended “Cloth Face Coverings” to assure they will not harm electrical workers.  For electrical workers, these should be flame resistant and arc rated to meet OSHA 1910.269 and NFPA 70E, and manufacturer’s are making them quickly to fill a huge need of an emergency nature. These cloth face coverings DO NOT act as respirators.  They are to LOWER the risk of transmission of the virus mainly FROM the wearer in essential workplace situations where complete social distancing is not practical. The ASTM F1506 task group who met today supported guidance and an amendment to ASTM F1506 as a sub/main concurrent ballot item.  We at ArcWear support this move.

ASTM F1506 or the other ASTM F23 standards for surgical masks has never foreseen such a need.  The flame resistance in the surgical mask standards is NOT adequate to address the needs of flash fire or arc flash. The only FR respirators which meet an applicable standard are for firefighters and quite costly and most are SCBA focused and not something any worker would want to wear daily unless absolutely needed.

For electrical workers interacting with other workers or for those interacting with the public, ASTM is now balloting a revision to ASTM F1506 to allow a limited label for these devices and interim guidance, but this process takes a minimum of 30 days and the full balloting process takes from 3-6 months, minimum.  ArcWear is hoping for NO negative ballots which would extend the time to 6 months but even with no negative ballots, this process takes at least 30 days in the best-case scenario.

So, in the interim, we at ArcWear recommend that companies who desire to manufacture these types of masks from fully ASTM F1506 compliant fabrics, use NO exposed metal in the product, and use no melting elastic for securing the mask.  Most are using a tie type closure from the AR fabric or an AR fabric covered flame-resistant hook and loop closure.  These types of masks cannot easily, or in our opinion, be safely labeled according to ASTM F1506 standard requirements as labels are typically melting materials and with all the required information, the size of the label would likely increase worker hazard.  The committee will vote a proposal to label the masks with a pad stamp containing ASTM F1506 and a tracking ID (for any potential recall) and the arc rating of the material. 

We recommend in the interim that companies using an arc rated fabric, pad stamp the mask with Arc Rating X cal/cm2 so workers will know this is an arc rated fabric.  The company could stamp the test method used (ASTM F1959 is the typical standard used to determine arc ratings but in the EU the standard could be IEC 61482-1-1 Method A).

This solution requires no extra testing other than what has already been completed on many AR fabrics and helps prevent the label from being an impediment to manufacture or a liability of failing to meet the standard until the consensus process is complete.

We applaud ASTM, the committee and respective chairs for a speedy solution.  We will share more as this progresses.

ASTM has sacrificially made ALL COVID-19 related standards FREE (this is their main income as a not for profit) to help in this pandemic.

If you want to support ASTM, join a committee. The cost is only $75 per year and you can join in the standards process.

List of Arc Rated Cloth Face Coverings Suppliers (e-Hazard and ArcWear to NOT sell of promote any products but are offering this as a service in the crisis).

Website | (519) 452-3780

Berne Apparel
Website | (800) 843-7657

Website | (800) 223-3372

Chapman (CarbonX)
Website | (801) 415-0023

Chicago Protective
Website | (847) 674-7900

Website | (866) 266-4035

Elliot Australia
Website | +61(7) 3265 2944

Website | (800) 385-5380

Majestic Fire Apparel Inc.
Website | (610) 377-6273

MWG Apparel
Website | (204) 774-2561 (Canada)

Website | (800) 553-0672 x2

PGI Industries
Website | (800) 558-8290

Website | +44 (0)1482 679600

Website  | (800) 527-3826

Website | +44 (0) 1302 890390

Stanco Manufacturing
Website | (800) 348-1148

True North Gear

Website | (800) 356-3433

3 Comments on “FR/AR Cloth Face Covering Guidance Proposed to ASTM: What Do I do Until Then?

[…] ArcWear FR/AR Cloth Face Covering Preliminary Guidance Using ASTM F1506 Tested Fabrics. This link al… […]

George Cole
April 30, 2020 at 11:56 am

Good recommendations and very helpful guidance Hugh.



[…] FR/AR Cloth Face Covering Guidance Proposed to ASTM: What Do I do Until Then? […]


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