Want to learn more about the maintenance requirements and lifespan of your arc rated clothing? Read on for the second article in a series of three based on the care, maintenance, and retest requirements for arc rated clothing. To learn more about the care of arc rated PPE or to see references to relevant standards, read the first article in the series.
Q: What is the effect of sweat/moisture on arc flash rating?
A: Based on our previous studies, water and sweat have decreased protection in some fabrics, but they do not increase the risk of ignition. Recent testing has questioned this assumption in several tests; when two inherently FR materials were tested with an increased moisture content, protection did not decrease. Sweat has two effects: it can carry current around the body, but can also allow for steam burns. We believe this is a trade-off, but recommend not “over-protecting” with extra weight and layers since sweat can lower protection levels.
Q: What should I do about rips or holes in my PPE?
A: A rip or a hole in a garment will not cause the arc-rated garment to ignite; however, rips and holes create exposure (to skin and underlayers) and increase risk. Garments should be inspected frequently and garments with holes and rips should be either repaired or removed from service, depending on severity. Repairs should always be performed using the same fabric as the original garment and with aramid thread or by a manufacturer and/or laundry approved repair technique. Many laundries have evaluated their patch methods and our test experience has shown no negative effects.
Q: Does the PPE have a recommended useful life?
A: “Useful Life” is variable, depending on the product you use and your individual circumstances. Garment replacement schedules of 1.5-4 years are common for treated fabrics and sometimes longer for some inherently FR materials. It is the end user’s responsibility to make determinations on when the clothing should be removed from service, and this is usually determined by a subjective inspection and pre-determined criteria (for example, damage that cannot be repaired).