Do certain employees in your company work around potential electric hazards? If they work with energized equipment, they’re probably familiar with the electrical arc suit. Further, they likely provide feedback on what they do and do not like about it.
So what is an electrical arc suit? We know wearing the arc suit makes us safer in certain environments. Any work environments where flame resistant clothing is necessary is likely a fit for the electrical arc suit. But what are some of the downfalls with having to wear an arc suit? Let’s discuss some of those points now.
Pros of Wearing an Electrical Arc Suit
As mentioned before, the number one reason workers wear an arc suit is to promote safety. Wearing an arc suit does not guarantee someone will not sustain injuries experiencing an event. It is, however, the best way to prevent fatal injuries. The top two dangers a worker faces during an arc flash are:
- Extreme temperatures
- A rapid burst of energy
The arc flash develops due to a fault between two electrodes. Electricity that passes over this fault moves so quickly that there is an explosion of energy. This explosion can occur violently over a small space and generate a significant fire. Depending on how close a worker is to this source, they could suffer serious burns. Temperatures often reach 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The other danger faced is from a significant energy burst. Again, because the electricity moves so quickly, there is a literal explosion of energy. Energy bursts like this are measured in calories / cm² and arcs typically release 5-30 calories. An exposure of only 1-2 calories can cause 2nd degree burns. The electrical arc suit is designed to withstand 40 calories / cm². This significantly decreases the chance a worker will sustain severe injury while working on energized equipment.
Another benefit to the electrical arc suit is how durable it is. Since it needs to withstand extreme conditions, it’s constructed to hold up through many seasons. One of the most popular brands that manufacture the arc suit is Bulwark. The Bulwark brand has been synonymous with excellence in the flame resistant garment industry for more than 40 years. Some of the features of the arc suit that speak to its durability include:
- A double layered collar with double stitching to withstand a lot of movement .
- A hook and loop fly closure in the front of the coat that allows for plenty of opening and closing.
- Covered leg zippers with a well supported zipper in the calves of the bib to allow for boots to be worn while putting the bibs on and taking them off.
Although this suit likely won’t be worn daily, the durability features allow it to last many seasons. The electrical arc suit shouldn’t need to be replaced or repaired unless it gets torn or cut. The smallest tears can greatly reduce the flame resistant properties. If a tear is found, and the garment cannot be repaired following the manufacturer’s instructions, it should be completely replaced. If the suit is never worn during one of these events, a worker will be able to wear this suit for years.
Cons of Wearing an Electrical Arc Suit
The first downside to the electrical arc suit is regarding comfort. This seems like a silly point to make, but comfort is important to workers. They spend the majority of their day in a uniform representing your company and they want to be comfortable. While you can help them be comfortable in many ways, safety is your biggest priority.
The biggest point that makes the arc suit uncomfortable is the weight of the garment. The arc suit is designed to function as outerwear. Employees always wear an FR pant and shirt underneath. All these layers can make a worker hot depending on exterior conditions. Always remember that comfort should be an afterthought with an arc suit. If someone needs to wear an arc suit, they need to be safe. Period.
Another downside to the arc suit is the cost to buy it. Because the reason to buy the arc suit is to promote safety, the cost to buy them should be seen as an investment. It’s easy to use the word investment when considering how much safer your employees will be if they take the proper precautions. The truth is that the cost of the arc suit is a significant number depending on the size of your organization. The complete arc suit consists of:
- Flame resistant hood with face shield
- Flame resistant bib
- Flame resistant coat
Purchasing these core items can cost a company between $700.00 – $1,000.00, maybe more. Because arc incidents do not occur regularly, the suit will not need replaced often. The durability of the suit, no matter the manufacturer, will be top notch. This means the suit can be worn over many seasons and the flame resistant properties will not be compromised.
If you need to introduce the electrical arc flash suit into your uniform program, let us know. We would be happy to talk through the ways you can make this purchase a more comfortable one.