Arc Flash PPE and Workwear

Sep 1, 2022

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Essential in conducting day-to-day business, electrical power provides useful tools. These electrical tools can be used to push employees to deliver greater results. Electrical equipment is present in almost every company. Generators power computer systems, lighting and more in premises across the globe. OHEAP Fire & Security are a proud provider of electrical fault protection. As arc flash PPE suppliers we understand how necessary it is when handling electrical equipment that you have the right equipment.

What Is An Arc Flash?

An arc flash is an electrical explosion or discharge. Also known as a flashover, these explosions are capable of reaching temperatures of 20,000°C. This is four times the temperature of the sun’s surface.

Life-threatening arc flash explosions can be avoided if steps are followed and equipment is handled with care. Firstly, let’s first understand how arc flashes are caused.

Risks That An Arc Flash Poses

Arc flashes are a serious risk to your employees and the public. They can cause severe burns, damage equipment, and even start fires.

Because they can happen so quickly, it’s easy to miss the warning signs of an arc flash accident before it’s too late. So how can you protect yourself against these potentially deadly accidents?

We’ve gathered together some information on what causes them, who’s most at risk for causing them and how to prevent arc flash accidents in your facility.

electrical arc flash sign

What Causes An Arc Flash?

Connections made from air to ground while an electrical current is present will result in an arc flash. This could be simply a wire making contact with an earthed system. As mentioned above, the heat and light produced from an electrical explosion or discharge can reach temperatures of over 20,000°C.

Additionally, if a circuit breaker is opened and the electrical current flows outside its intended path an arc flash could occur. A circuit breaker is designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage. A circuit breaker works similar to a fuse, however, it’s reusable. Once this circuit breaker safety device is removed, overcurrent or short circuits can occur.

Notes: The conductor is defined as an object that allows the flow of charge in one or more directions. A circuit breaker is designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage, similar to a fuse.

electrical arc flash support

What is Arc Flash PPE Workwear?

Arc flash protection is important for anyone who works with high-voltage equipment. As the name implies, it protects you from the electrical danger of arc flashes, which can happen when an electrical circuit is damaged or has a short. When this happens, there’s no way to control the amount of current that flows through your body. Especially considering you could be seriously hurt or even killed if you’re not properly protected.

Often made from either cotton or nylon, arc flash PPE workwear helps to reduce the risk of arc flash injuries. In fact, it does this by providing protection against high voltage and energy levels. By offering protection at all stages of the event, arc flash PPE clothing can help prevent burns, fires and even electrocution.

These products are designed to ensure you have the best protection against arc flashes and other hazards, such as electrical shocks. Arc flash PPE suppliers will use materials that resist melting during an electric shock, so you will be safe if working near high-voltage equipment.

These items are available in many different styles and colours so that you can find what works best for your job and personal style.

electrical arc flash clothing

Need Additional Protective Workwear?

Arc Flash PPE Category Ratings

As a safety professional, it’s your job to make sure that all of your employees are wearing the right kind of personal protective equipment (arc flash PPE) when they’re working with electrical hazards.

So, you’re working on some high-voltage electrical equipment. You’ve been told that you must wear PPE at all times while doing so. But what does that even mean? What are your options for PPE and how can you tell which is right for your job? Also, how can you be sure they’re wearing the right gear?

The following four categories of arc flash PPE (flame-resistant, non-conductive clothing) are required by OSHA for different types of jobs. Make sure everyone knows what category their job falls into before sending them out into the field.

Arc Flash PPE Rating CAT 1, 4 cal/cm2

PPE Category 1 is the lowest level of arc flash PPE protection and is used when minimal arc flash hazard exists.

When kitting your employees with arc-rated clothing, PPE category 1 is the cheapest method of achieving this. Often all that is required is the arc-rated garments listed below and the use of safety glasses.

This must be a single layer of arc-rated clothing including the following:

  • Arc Rated Long Sleeve Shirt.
  • Arc Rated Trousers (Or Overalls).
  • Arc Rated Jacket (As Needed).
  • Heavy-Duty Leather Gloves (As Needed).
  • Safety Glasses.
  • Face Shield.
  • Hearing Protection (As Needed).
  • Leather Footwear (As Needed).

Arc Flash PPE Rating CAT 2, 8 cal/cm2

Similar to PPE category 1 protection, CAT 2 arc flash clothing can also often be met with a single layer of protective arc clothing. However, in addition to the safety glasses, you will also need a basic face shield, gloves and clothing that covers the arms and legs.

To reach CAT 2 PPE, you must have an:

  • Arc Rated Long Sleeve Shirt.
  • Arc Rated Trousers (Or Overalls).
  • Arc Rated Balaclava.
  • Arc Rated Jacket (As Needed).
  • Face Shield.
  • Safety Glasses.
  • Heavy-Duty Leather Gloves.
  • Leather Footwear.
  • Hearing Protection.

Many companies that require arc flash PPE CAT 1 protection will opt for CAT 2 based on it meeting both requirements without costing much more.

Arc Flash PPE Rating CAT 3, 25 cal/cm2

Now comes the bigger upgrade to your PPE. This PPE category is typically a lot bulkier and heavier. You will now be required to wear a full-body suit, helmet and face shield. The protective gloves worn previous now must be arc rated and the full body coverall MUST include an arc flash suit hood.

  • Arc Rated Long Sleeve Shirt.
  • Arc Rated Trousers.
  • Arc Rated Coverall.
  • Arc Rated Suit Hood.
  • Arc Rated Gloves.
  • Arc Rated Jacket (As Needed).
  • Safety Glasses.
  • Face Shield.
  • Helmet.
  • Leather Footwear.
  • Hearing Protection.

Arc Flash PPE Rating CAT 4, 40 cal/cm2

PPE category 4 is the final step to your arc flash protection. The final arc flash PPE category must meet a 40 cal/cm2 rating. This requires the wearer to utilise a full-body suit, helmet and face shield. You MUST also wear a breathing apparatus!

  • Arc Rated Long Sleeve Shirt.
  • Arc Rated Trousers.
  • Arc Rated Coverall.
  • Arc Rated Suit Hood.
  • Arc Rated Gloves.
  • Arc Rated Jacket (As Needed).
  • Helmet.
  • Face Shield.
  • Safety Glasses.
  • Face Shield.
  • Breathing Apparatus.
  • Leather Footwear.
  • Hearing Protection.

Who Causes An Arc Flash?

The number one cause of an arc flash is a lack of training. This is a common problem in may industries as managers rush their employees into the field. Arc flash explosions can happen to anyone at any time.

It is important to learn how to work safely in your industry because you don’t want to get hurt or even killed whilst at work. You should be cautious when working on something that could potentially kill you.

An arc flashover is usually caused by a worker who doesn’t follow safety rules. Arc flashovers are caused by an arc that has jumped from one contact to another, causing a short circuit.

Cause 1: Accidental Contact

Exposed, live wiring is a serious hazard. Physical contact with a live electrical wire can set off an arc flash.

Cause 2: Testing and Troubleshooting Live Equipment

Testing and troubleshooting live equipment can cause issues. Please ensure that test probes and tools don’t accidentally establish a phase-to-ground connection. Use the right tools for the job and reduce the risk of an arc flash occurring.

Cause 3: Poor Condition Of Equipment

Equipment that has been wired incorrectly or damaged can lead to failures and arc flash explosions. Check the cable installation prior to any work and ensure that no cables or wiring is damaged or missing.

Who Is Most At Risk From An Arc Flash?

Arc flash is a serious threat to anyone who works around electricity. If you work in the field of maintenance, you’re at risk of exposure unless your employer has taken precautions like installing arc flash explosion prevention equipment and ensuring that you have training on how to use it correctly.

Electricians: Electrician work is often dangerous and has been known to cause arc flashes. While electricians are trained in electrical safety, they still make mistakes. These accidents can be life-threatening and even fatal if you’re not careful.

Maintenance workers: Maintenance workers are also at risk for causing an arc flash because they often work alone and don’t have the training that electricians do to learn how to avoid these types of accidents.

Contractors: Contractors can cause an arc flash by using improper tools or failing to follow safety procedures while working on electrically charged equipment such as circuit breakers or transformers.

electrical arc flash

Damage Caused By An Arc Flash

Electrical arcs will cause substantial damage when supplied with sufficient electrical energy. Injuries include severe burns, hearing loss, lung damage, and eye trauma.

Eye damage: Accidents like this are usually caused by individuals standing too close to an electrical device when it sparks. If you’re looking at the sparks of a running tool or machine and accidentally get hit with its light, your eyes could be damaged as well.

Lung damage: This is another injury that’s often caused by people working around electricity without any protection. If there’s a spark nearby and you breathe in some of those fumes from said spark, then your lungs will probably suffer for it.

Hearing loss: Hearing loss can happen if there’s no ear protection on hand when working around loud machines or tools that produce sparks.

arc flash CAT symbols

Arc Flash PPE Clothing vs. Flame Resistant Clothing

While FR clothing is designed to protect against flash fires and sparks. It does not offer protection against the intense heat of an arc flash. Arc flash clothing is designed to withstand the intense heat of an arc flash.

Flame-resistant clothing, or FR clothing, is designed to protect against flash and bursts of flames. It’s ideal for workers who come into contact with fire or sparks in the workplace, such as welders. FR clothing must be able to guard workers against some extreme temperatures, but not as high as arc flash clothing.

The main difference between flame-resistant clothing and arc flash protection is that FR protects against flame exposure while arc flash protection guards you from electric arcs caused by the intense heat generated by electrical equipment such as transformers.


You now know that arc flash clothing is important to protect you from arc flashes. Additionally, you should have a basic understanding of how it works, and you know why you need to wear PPE for your job.

You can choose from various types of arc flash protection clothing depending on your needs. Generally, arc flash suits come in different thicknesses, as well as different fabrics (such as cotton or polyester). Equally, they are also available for men and women, with sizes ranging from small to 4XL.

The amount of time each worker must wear their PPE depends on their specific tasks at work and the type of environment they are working in. For example, those working near machinery would wear their PPE longer than someone who is simply walking around carrying out simple tasks such as answering phones or filing documents. Also, you should check with your employer about what type of protection they require before purchasing any equipment like this so that no mistakes happen.

We hope that this article has helped you better understand arc flash protection clothing, the risks associated with it, and the ways in which it can help protect you from those risks. Lastly, if you have any questions or concerns about choosing the right PPE for yourself or your workers, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help!

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