Suit Up – Choosing the Right Arc Flash Suit for the Job

Choosing the right arc flash clothing and/or arc flash suit depends on your electrical safety requirements.

arc flash suit

The arc flash suit consists of a set of flame resistant clothing that protects workers from serious injury or sickness from electrical arc flash hazards, including coveralls, leggings, aprons, footwear, smocks, gloves, pants, jackets, and vests. The strength of the material is dependent on the minimum arc rating required for the specific task, which is determined by the level of risk involved. Arc flash suits are tiered into four hazard risk categories.  


Regular work clothes can easily catch on fire by an electric arc flash. The risk of serious injury is greatly reduced when the arc flash suit is worn in the presence of these electrical hazards. What should you look for when selecting the suit that’s right for you and/or your team? Let’s examine the attributes more closely.


What is the NFPA 70E 2018 standard for arc flash clothing and arc flash suits?

The NFPA 70E standard addresses electrical safety work practices and procedures for employees who work on or near exposed, energized electrical equipment. This standard requires employees to wear arc rated (AR) clothing that meets the requirements of ASTM F1959 whenever there is a possibility of an arc flash and the employee is within the restricted approach or arc flash boundaries.


Prior to the performance of live work, employees must perform a risk assessment to determine the likelihood and severity of an arc flash to develop based on their work.


Related: For more information about the NFPA 70E Standard and OSHA regulations, check out our extensive article about arc flash protection.


Is compliance with NFPA 70E mandatory?

No. NFPA 70E is a national consensus safety standard published by NFPA primarily to assist OSHA in preparing electrical safety standards. Federal OSHA has not incorporated it into the Code of Federal Regulations.


However, in the event of an injury or death due to an electrical accident, if OSHA determines that compliance with 70E would have prevented or lessened the injury, OSHA may cite the employer under the general duty clause.


What happens to clothing during an electrical arc flash?

Electrical arcs can reach temperatures in excess of 35,000 degrees which instantly melts and then vaporizes electrical conductors into combustible plasma gas. This gas rapidly expands due to the superheating of air which produces a concussive blast that propels molten shrapnel at speeds that exceed the speed of sound; NFPA refers to this condition as arc blast.


A byproduct of arc blast is blast overpressure which is produced when the blast shock wave reaches the sound barrier. Blast overpressure is fatal even down to 2 pounds per square inch where it crushes hollow organ systems such as the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. For these reasons, 40cal/cm2 is the largest arc flash exposure that PPE can protect against.


How do I choose the correct arc flash clothing and/or arc flash suit?


Choosing the right arc flash clothing and/or arc flash suit depends on your electrical safety requirements. The higher the incident energy level at the point of work, the higher arc-rated PPE you’ll need. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) uses four Arc Flash PPE Categories to classify the range of hazards. Let’s take a look at the clothing and PPE required at each level:


Hazard Risk Category 1 – Requires a minimum arc rating of 4 cal/cm2

Required Clothing               

•        Arc-rated long-sleeve shirt and pants or coverall

•        Arc-rated arc flash suit hood or face shield and balaclava

•        Arc-rated jacket, parka, rainwear or hard hat liner (as needed)


Required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

·         Class E hard hat

·         Safety glasses or goggles

·         Hearing protection

·         Heavy duty leather gloves, arc-rated gloves, or rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors

·         Leather or dielectric footwear (as needed)


Hazard Risk Category 2 – Requires a minimum arc rating of 8 cal/cm2

Required Clothing

Required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Hazard Risk Category 3 – Requires a minimum arc rating of 25 cal/cm2

Required Clothing

Required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Hazard Risk Category 4 – Requires a minimum arc rating of 40 cal/cm2

Required Clothing

Required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Where can I purchase arc flash clothing and/or arc flash suit?

Wesco Safety is proud to partner with a variety of industry-leading suppliers to bring you a comprehensive selection of Arc Flash Clothing, Gloves and Supplies. We carry a wide variety of products in-stock and are also happy to special order any clothing or supplies you might need to fit the specific requirements of your workplace.


We offer a variety of Arc Flash Suits which meet NFPA 70E Hazard Risk Category 1-2 standards. These suits all include an arc-rated jacket, coverall and hood:


·         Chicago Protective Apparel Arc Flash Suit

·         NSA Protera Arc Flash Protection Suit

·         Salisbury Pro-Wear Arc Flash Suit


We also offer an Arc Flash Suit which meets NFPA 70E Hazard Risk Category 3-4 standards. This suit includes an arc-rated jacket, bib overall and hood:


·         NSA Protera Arc Flash Protection Coat and Bib Overall Suit


Our Safety Support Team is always available to discuss your electrical-related workplace applications and to help you choose the right clothing to keep your workforce protected from arc flash.



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