Electrical environments are extremely dangerous for workers, with arc-flash hazards on the rise due to an increased demand in electricity and energy, meaning that workers are at risk now more than ever. In these environments, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as arc-flash clothing acts as essential protection for workers while performing jobs, from maintenance checks to everyday machinery tasks. This article will explain why arc-flash base layers are essential as part of the “last line of defence” with arc-flash PPE.
What Are Under Base Layers?
Available in the form of leggings, long johns, tops, and facial arc-flash protection such as balaclavas and snoods, the arc-rated (AR) and flame-resistant (FR) base layers are used as a last line of protection to anyone in a potential arc-flash environment. Base layers come in several arc-rating options and are made from a mix of inherent FR material such as Merino wool and FR viscose tricot. The fabric chosen will withstand the instantaneous heat from an arc flash and not melt onto the skin as would be the case with nylon fabrics such as football shirts.
Why Are Base Layers Needed?
Base layers are included in arc-flash PPE to give the wearer the best protection against arc flashes. Appropriate base layers for electrical workers are useful as a multi-functional garment for both performance and protection applications, making them a versatile addition to a safety program. Under base layers may be worn under switching suits and other arc-flash garments, providing extra insulation. Any base layers worn with essential PPE can only be included in the overall calculation for the arc thermal protective value (ATPV) if they have been fully tested as a set of garments.
Base layers can also play a role in comfort and provide additional warmth in cold weather, while the moisture-wicking material keeps moisture away from the skin to keep the wearer dry. For hotter environments and vigorous tasks, they can help moderate body temperature due to the blends of fabric used to create these garments. This improves comfort and allows air to the skin, helping to further the use of daily wear PPE, meaning that workers are more likely to be wearing PPE in both high- and low-risk environments.
The Hazards of an Arc Flash
As mentioned, PPE is the last line of defence against an arc flash, where serious damage can occur if the correct arc-flash PPE is not worn. An arc flash can cause damage in the way of serious burns, which could be life-threatening. To best protect yourself from an arc-flash hazard, wear under base layers with matching arc-flash clothing, such as arc-flash coveralls, switching suit kits, and other outerwear. Always remember to equip teams with appropriate arc-rated face and hand protection too. Overall, base layers are worn to build up protection of the wearer as a part of arc-flash PPE to ensure maximum protection and user comfort from any electrical arc-flash hazard.
—This article was contributed by Reece Safety, a UK-based company that operates worldwide, offering a diverse range of safety products.